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DOT truck traffic relief plan should help Queens

But City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who presided Tuesday at a public hearing as chairman of the Council's Transportation Committee, complained that the plan was overdue and the delay was "troubling." It was originally supposed to be released in the summer of 2004. Weinshall blamed the delay in issuing the report on "an underestimation of the length of time required for such a large undertaking." In any case, Weinshall said the report would be out by mid-April at a cost of $1.5 million. "The truck traffic management plan has been long awaited and overdue," Liu said. "Residents in neighborhoods across the city are facing increasing dangers from both legal and illegal truck traffic. We look forward to the administration's recommendations to be issued in April." Both transportation officials and advocates for better handling of the truck traffic problem agreed that truck traffic was expected to increase greatly in the next 20 years. But some predicted growth of 30 percent and others a rise of 50 percent to 70 percent. Many told a now familiar story of noise, air pollution, damage to trees and power lines and danger to children and what some said was a lack of enforcement of truck route regulations. Teresa Toro of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said "one leader of a western Queens civic organization said trucks going off route constantly damage public property - days before we spoke, a very old and large street tree had been knocked down by a truck making too wide a turn. Civic activists said big box store development has increased truck traffic, vibrating residential building and they worry about trucks running over family and friends. "In central Queens," Toro said, "some residents have had speed bumps installed, but trucks make them sources of noise pollution when they bang over the bumps at all hours." Transportation officials said they planned to improve signage directing truck drivers where not to drive in the five boroughs. The agency displayed pocket-size plastic cards with information to help police assigned to truck route enforcement duty and Weinshall said these officers would undergo increased training. Nearly all those who testified agreed that trucks were essential - the Department of Transportation said 99 percent of everything brought into New York City moves by truck. Edward Kampermann and Robert Holden, both of Maspeth, and City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), while not offering a panacea for the truck problem, expressed an opinion of what was not a solution. All spoke out against the proposed Cross Harbor freight tunnel, which would route truck traffic from New Jersey to Brooklyn and then to a location in Maspeth. Mayor Bloomberg opposes the plan. "We might start out by refraining from saying this project would increase traffic a little in Queens," Gallagher said. "It would increase traffic tremendously and overrun large areas of our pleasant, residential neighborhoods with noise, congestion and air pollution."Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, ext. 136.

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