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Truck traffic from tunnel slammed at boro meeting

"I thought the goal of this project was to take trucks off our streets," Borough President Helen Marshall said. "We cannot have more trucks on our roads. Our roads aren't meant to carry them."

At the Queens Borough Board meeting Monday, the city Economic Development Corp. presented the second phase of its environmental study into a proposed tunnel that would carry freight from Jersey City through Brooklyn to West Maspeth via the Bay Ridge rail line.

At the West Maspeth train yard, trucks would pick up cargo from the trains and transport freight throughout New York City and the surrounding areas.

"There is a localized (truck traffic) increase in Queens," Alice Cheng, vice president of transportation, said.

Estimates showed that truck traffic could increase by 1.4 million truck miles traveled per year in Queens if a double-track tunnel were built. If a single-track tunnel were built, the borough could see a decrease of 100,000 truck miles traveled per year in the borough.

"Reducing truck traffic was one of the benefits of this project," Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said. "We're going to get hammered."

Dan Baer, spokesman for the project, said a double-tracked tunnel would result in a reduction of 1 million truck trips over the Hudson River crossings or 500,000 trips if a single-track tunnel were built. This would lead to a reduction in vehicle emissions in the region.

But expanding the West Maspeth yard to transfer goods from trains to trucks could have a negative effect on the businesses and roads in Western Queens, another downside that borough officials questioned at the meeting.

As many as 25 to 52 businesses could be displaced by the expansion of the West Maspeth train yard, Baer said, leaving anywhere from 1,100 to 2,500 jobs in limbo.

"As of right now, this study is simply a study," Cheng said. "There are no funds allocated for freight improvements."

Officials also considered the effect of increasing truck traffic on local access roads that connect West Maspeth with major highways like the Long Island Expressway and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

"We're coordinating with state Department of Transportation to see if there are ways we could get trucks directly on main arterioles," Baer said.

The Environmental Impact Study for the proposed tunnel is scheduled to be completed within the next few weeks, EDC officials said. Hearings will be held in March to ascertain the public's opinions of the project.

"This requires a more intensive kind of studying," Marshall said.

Cheng said the Queens Borough Board's comments will be taken into consideration as the project develops.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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