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Trucks may get permission to drive on segment of GCP

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Trucks breeze down the bridge and rumble along the...

By Dustin Brown

For more than 20 years, the less than one-mile stretch of the Grand Central Parkway extending from the Triborough Bridge to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway has been a thorn in George Delis’ side.

Trucks breeze down the bridge and rumble along the expressway without reproach, but on the parkway — a 0.9-mile stretch of which provides a seamless connection between the two — commercial vehicles are banned.

So they bypass the Grand Central by way of Astoria Boulevard, causing so much congestion that Delis, the district manager for Community Board 1, asked the city and state transportation agencies to bend the rules just far enough to let some trucks mosey down the parkway for that 0.9 mile run between Points A and B.

That was in 1982.

Two decades later, Astoria’s pipe dream may finally turn to reality.

Iris Weinshall, the commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, has agreed to press forward with efforts to allow commercial vehicles no more than 12 feet in height to travel the eastbound leg of the Grand Central Parkway between the Triborough and the BQE. The proposal enjoyed unanimous approval last Thursday at a meeting hosted by Borough President Helen Marshall, who invited community leaders along with representatives from the police department, Metropolitan Transit Authority and state DOT to hear the plan.

“Everybody agrees on this concept of allowing commercial traffic on the Grand Central Parkway from the Triborough Bridge to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway,” said Lisi de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the city DOT. “It will happen as soon as we work out the legal issues.”

The move comes in response to requests from a coalition of public officials — including state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Delis — to finally act on a proposal that has sat on the back burner for two decades.

“It seems like a great idea both because you’ll lessen the risk of accidents, and also remove a lot of congestion and traffic on Astoria Boulevard,” Gianaris said. “Anyone who drives there sees a lot of traffic on the service road is commercial traffic that’s not allowed to use that stretch of the Grand Central Parkway.”

But when exactly truck drivers can begin sailing down the parkway remains to be seen.

The Grand Central Parkway is a state road that by definition cannot carry commercial traffic, and the city is still evaluating what legal steps to take in order to seal the deal.

The city DOT also expects to solicit public comment on the change before taking any action.

Those who attended last Thursday’s meeting said the new rules could take effect within as little as three months, providing a foreseeable realization of an idea that has languished for more than 20 years.

Although a similar plan was proposed in 1982, support fell through when the state suggested extending the segment open to commercial traffic well beyond the BQE.

“When DOT came and said, ‘Let’s go to the Van Wyck,’ that killed it,” Delis said. “I stood up at the meeting and said, ‘You just killed this proposal.’”

A six-month pilot program in 1996 studied a more modest plan’s effect on local congestion, but the program did little to alleviate traffic in Astoria because only the smallest commercial vehicles were allowed to stay on the parkway.

Although the current plan only allows eastbound commercial traffic coming off the bridge to ride the parkway, de Bourbon said the city DOT will examine whether to expand the program to include westbound traffic.

“It’s got to be both ways,” Delis said. “Iris Weinshall said she would make that study immediately. That shouldn’t take any time whatsoever to complete.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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