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State DOT hears concerns on Grand Ave. truck traffic

Nearly 300 trucks per day rumble along Grand Avenue in such numbers that business owners and residents there say it is ruining their once-quiet neighborhood.

"Something has to be done about it because we can't even keep our doors or windows open anymore because of the noise and exhaust fumes," said Anthony Nunziato, who chairs the CB 5 environmental committee and is the owner of a floral shop on Grand Avenue.

Last week DOT officials asked board members and Maspeth residents to clue them in about the intersections in the neighborhood where truck traffic is at its worst. It is part of a study the DOT is conducting at the request of CB 5 members to see what can be done to alleviate the truck traffic in the community around Grand Avenue in Maspeth.

DOT Spokesman Keith Kalb said DOT will rely on information provided by the community about traffic "hot spots" in formulating a plan.

"We are in the process now of collecting information," Kalb said. "The study should be complete by late June or early July."

"The worst place is the Grand Avenue exit on the Long Island Expressway," Nunziato said. "Truckers use this exit to get to Brooklyn and then they come barreling down Grand Avenue."

The DOT has hired a private firm, Edwards and Kelcey company, to conduct the study. Edwards and Kelcey representatives declined to comment on Monday about how the study is going but said the results will be made public this summer.

CB 5 members conducted their own study of the truck problem in Maspeth over the past several years, coming up with solutions they hoped the DOT would act on.

"We did our homework and studied the problem for several years," Nunziato said. "We suggested the DOT put signs up on the LIE that would divert truck traffic to the Maurice Avenue exit, and trucks heading to Long Island could use the LIE entrance there. We gave the results of our study to DOT, but they never did anything with it."

Nunziato said as part of the study, CB 5 had people count the number of trucks that come through Maspeth on Grand Avenue in one month.

"Seven thousand per month," Nunziato said. "That's a lot of trucks coming through here. I've been here 16 years and the amount of trucks just keeps escalating. It's not good for businesses here, it's not good for schools here and it's not good for anyone's health."

Nunziato said the board is happy the DOT is finally heeding their complaints about the truck problem and hopes it will also heed their advice about how to solve it.

Meanwhile, just as CB 5 and DOT begin to address and possibly unravel Maspeth's truck-traffic woes, the city is touting a proposal that could elevate cargo traffic in Maspeth to new levels.

The city Economic Development Corp. is proposing to bore a rail tunnel from New Jersey to Queens. The tunnel would carry freight from New Jersey through Brooklyn to West Maspeth via the Bay Ridge rail line.

The plan, which Queens officials say would increase truck traffic in the borough by 1.4 million truck miles, has drawn the ire of many borough officials.

"I thought the goal of this project was to take trucks off our streets," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall earlier this month. "We cannot have more trucks on our roads."

CB 5 officials are eyeing the proposal suspiciously, worried more about the present-term economic effects the proposal may have rather than the long-term traffic problem the tunnel would bring.

"It's a futuristic plan so we're not worried right now about the traffic the tunnel would bring," Nunziato said. "But the thing we are worried about now is that (the proposed tunnel) could drive businesses away from opening here."

For now, Nunziato said, CB 5 members are waiting patiently for the DOT to determine what to do about truck traffic in Maspeth, but patience is wearing thin.

"It used to be that I could leave my door open and say 'good morning' to people as they went by," Nunziato said. "Now all I can hear are trucks barreling by - eventually it will ruin this small-town environment we have here."

Reach reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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