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Photos by Angela Matua/QNS
Photos by Angela Matua/QNS
A $2.5 million project will end the practice of large trucks using local streets to travel in Astoria.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on Friday that large trucks will no longer have to use local truck routes in Astoria to bypass sections of the Grand Central Parkway (GCP).

Previously, trucks larger than 12 feet, 6 inches tall driving on the Grand Central Parkway in Astoria had to use local truck routes to enter the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge or the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE).

Forcing these vehicles to use local truck routes at Astoria Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Northern Boulevard and Broadway increased traffic and the emission of heavy fumes, local officials argued. Now, trucks up to 14 feet tall can stay on the Grand Central Parkway to the BQE.

The $2.5 million project, which started in November, will increase clearances at the 31st Street and 69th Street overpasses by lowering the roadway, micro-milling the pavement and lowering catch basins. Signs that once diverted trucks to local roads will be removed.

At a press conference at 31st Street in Astoria, resident Matthew Weiss said he was “ecstatic, elated” and “jumping up and down with joy and glee.”

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A 20-year Astoria resident who lives about 100 feet from Astoria Boulevard, Weiss said he has been contacting officials for 15 years about the noise and pollution he experienced as a result of the trucks.

“These giant semis have to use that Jake brake [engine breaking mechanism on diesel engines],” he said. “That’s the sound that haunts my nightmares.”

Weiss, who said he often hears a “soul-piercing noise from these giant machines” through his window contacted Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas’ office in 2013 and credited her for working diligently to push the state to find a solution. He added that the trucks were a major source of pollution and that pedestrians felt unsafe crossing the street with trucks speeding by local roads.

“It’s an amazing result of local advocacy,” Weiss said. “This is a triumph of local government.”

In June, Simotas, Councilman Costa Constantinides, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Congressman Joseph Crowley held a press conference  in the same location calling on the state to implement this plan.

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At the time, a spokesperson for the state DOT said the agency has studied allowing larger commercial vehicles to use that section of the GCP but “roadway characteristics” have stopped them from permitting trucks to do so.

“A long, horrible nightmare for the people who live, work, travel and play in this Astoria neighborhood is finally ending,” Simotas said. “I can’t think of a nicer gift to the community this holiday season and I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Transportation for listening to our request, acknowledging the needless suffering of this community and getting this project done in record time.”

Crowley, who called the project “a great present,” added that this project would also ease traffic in neighborhoods as far as Woodside.

The project is set to be completed at the end of 2017.

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