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Truck drivers don’t know boro truck routes: Study

An ongoing study by the Department of Transportation and a traffic consultant group found that only 9 percent of truckers polled said they are familiar with New York City truck route regulations and identified problem areas in the borough where trucks routinely go down residential streets.

“We have a major problem with trucks,” K. Jacob Ruppert of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association said Tuesday night in a public meeting at the Flushing Library. “When the police did take action (after many complaints), they got up to 80 violations for trucks going down roads in one day.”

In Kew Gardens Hills, the main problems streets are 72nd Avenue and 77th Avenue from Park Drive East to Main Street, said Ruppert.

Other problem streets identified by the study included Main Street in Flushing, where traffic becomes congested when trucks double park while unloading goods; 32nd Avenue and 35th Avenue that truckers use to bypass Northern Boulevard when it is congested; 14th Avenue in College Point, which is not a truck route, but is printed in bold yellow on Hagstrom maps; and Grand Avenue in Maspeth and Elmhurst, which is often used as an alternate route to the Long Island Expressway.

In addition to causing congestion, heavy trucks can also contribute to water main breaks under streets that were not designed to be truck routes, said Mario Fiorillo, a traffic engineer who was sub-contracted for the study done by the Edwards and Kelcey consultant group.

“When they design a truck route, they determine if certain streets are truck routes or residential streets,” said Fiorillo. “When you get heavy trucks going over residential streets, the extra weight sends vibrations down underground and could contribute to dislocations of water main pipes.”

Truck route roads are thicker than residential roads, and the compaction of the ground underneath the roads is different, Fiorillo explained.

Ruppert said at least eight sewer mains have been broken under problem streets in Kew Gardens Hills over the last 10 years.

David Stein, the DOT’s project manager for the truck routes study, which began last spring, said the goal of the agency is to address problems by doing the least amount of tinkering possible to truck routes.

One problem that often misleads truckers is that Hagstrom maps, considered to be an industry standard, designate primary roads using yellow lines, and those roads are sometimes not truck routes, said Stein. In addition, computer programs such as Mapquest show drivers the shortest route without taking into consideration which roads permit trucks.

The DOT has contacted Hagstrom to talk about the possibility of drawing designated truck routes in a different color on its maps, said Stein. In addition, the DOT is working on putting together a five-borough map showing truck routes and explaining the city’s truck regulations, which would be distributed free to truckers.

The DOT is also working on changing truck route signs so they are of uniform design and placed at a designated height above streets and in consistent locations that are easily visible.

“Trucks are a way of life,” Stein said, noting that “97 percent of goods that come into the city come through trucks,” said Stein.

While some truckers willingly violate truck route regulations, a survey done as a part of the DOT truck study found only 9 percent of truckers polled answered “yes” when asked if they were familiar with truck route regulations while 50 percent said they were “somewhat” familiar and 41 percent they were not familiar with truck routes.

Stein said he expects the truck route study to be completed in the summer. After that, the DOT will look at the feasibility of implementing recommendations made by consultants.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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