The city will start allowing some trucks to travel both directions on the Grand Central Parkway between the Triborough Bridge and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway by the end of this summer as part of a pilot program, officials said.
The new rule is designed to curb the heavy volume of traffic in Astoria, which bears the burden of trucks that are forced to exit the highway because of the Grand Central Parkway's ban on commercial vehicles.
"I am hopeful that the result will be much less traffic on our residential streets and greater safety for residents," said state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who lobbied heavily for the pilot program with City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and George Delis, the district manager of Community Board 1. "Keeping these trucks off our streets will make a huge difference in traffic safety and quality of life."
Although the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Triborough Bridge both carry heavy volumes of truck traffic, they are connected by a 0.9-mile stretch of the Grand Central Parkway - where trucks are now prohibited.
The 18-month pilot program is scheduled to begin in late August or early September, said Lisi de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Transportation.
The height limit for the trucks that are allowed to drive along the parkway is still being determined but will not exceed 12 feet, de Bourbon said.
"Only certain kinds of vehicles will be allowed simply because there are overpasses that are too low for certain trucks," de Bourbon said.
For instance, combination tractor-trailer units will still have to exit the parkway, de Bourbon said.
The Grand Central Parkway is a state road that by definition cannot carry commercial traffic, and the city is still finalizing the legal aspects of the change.
"We're working out the kinks," de Bourbon said. "It's definite that we want to do it."
Borough President Helen Marshall had hosted a meeting in January where public officials unanimously endorsed a preliminary proposal to allow commercial vehicles on the eastbound stretch of the parkway.
But community leaders insisted that commercial vehicles would have to be allowed in both directions in order for the pilot program to be effective at easing traffic.
The Department of Transportation ultimately agreed, and the pilot program slated to begin by the end of the summer would permit trucks to stay on the parkway both approaching and exiting the Triborough Bridge.
A six-month pilot program in 1996 studied a more modest plan's effect on local congestion, but it did little to alleviate traffic in Astoria because only the smallest commercial vehicles were allowed to stay on the parkway.
"We're looking at keeping larger vehicles on the parkway," de Bourbon said. "We feel 18 months is a good gauge of whether or not something like this is going to work."
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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