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Cross Harbor plan will worsen west Qns traffic: Pols

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Cross Harbor Freight Program is aimed at reducing truck traffic in and around the tri-state area, but elected officials and activists in western Queens worry the plan will just bring those trucks to their backyard.

“We’re trying to get rid of truck traffic in the neighborhood, and this is going to bring truck traffic to the neighborhood,” said Roe Daraio, president of the civic group Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together — or COMET.

The Port Authority’s website said the Cross Harbor program is designed to investigate ways to alleviate the truck traffic traveling throughout the city, Long Island, southern New York, northern and central New Jersey, western and southern Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania. The website said 1.1 billion tons of freight was transported via truck through the area in 2007, and that number is expected to increase to more than 1.5 billion tons by 2035. The program wants to lower that truck traffic by providing ways to ship freight across New York Harbor.

The Port Authority is currently working on an Environmental Impact Statement that will examine different strategies to fix the problem, including only doing the planned upgrades infrastructure, doing small upgrades to improve the capacity of the current transportation network, using fees and other regulations as well as incentives to encourage certain ways of transporting or building a new system through float and ferry, rail or multimodal.

Mike Armstrong, spokesman for state Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), said the existing railroads all come to Maspeth and Middle Village either from the East River along the shoreline or into the Fresh Pond railroads from Brooklyn. He said Markey and other area elected officials fear this will mean freight will be delivered by rail to the area only to be unloaded onto trucks that will travel through the neighborhoods.

“There are already too many trucks,” Armstrong said. “They’re talking about adding a thousand more trucks to the existing traffic.”

As a result of their concerns, Markey wrote a letter to the Port Authority last month asking the agency to provide the community with a professional consultant to convey their needs and wishes in the project.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood) and Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills); state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach); Assembly members Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood); and City Council members Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Diana Reyna (D-Ridgewood) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Steve Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority, said the agency received the letter Dec. 7 and was reviewing it.

Daraio said the Port Authority also met with COMET´╗┐ and the community at a meeting. She said this was the first time meeting with the Port Authority, but so far the conversation has been amicable and she is planning to meet with a consultant from the agency.

“It’s not something that’s imminent, it’s something in the future, so that’s going to be an ongoing discussion,” Daraio said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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