Grand Avenue traffic frustrates Maspeth

By Dustin Brown

The multi-year construction project on the Long Island Expressway has created a new traffic pattern through Maspeth which has community leaders up in arms.

Frustrated by congestion on the LIE, an increasing number of truck drivers are ducking through Grand Avenue as a shortcut to points south, a trend members of Community Board 5 want to end.

CB 5, which covers Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale, unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month calling on the city Department of Transportation to create a truck bypass that would pull commercial traffic out of Maspeth’s main streets and into the industrial sections of the community.

Tony Nunziato, chairman of CB 5’s Environmental Services Committee, said trucks typically bypass the congested LIE by traveling through Maspeth’s shopping district.

“They know there’s a bottleneck on the Long Island Expressway,” Nunziato said. “They’ve been getting off at Grand Avenue the last couple of years. Now they know of it as a faster way to Brooklyn.”

Nunziato has spent months waging a campaign to cut back truck traffic through Maspeth in an effort to improve air quality in the community.

“There’s no emission controls for trucks,” Nunziato said. “Now we have smoke billowing out of trucks coming into our town.”

Nunziato said he acknowledges the need for trucks to transport goods, but he objects to drivers taking a route directly through the commercial heart of a community he described as “the last of the small towns USA.”

The section of Grand Avenue south of the Long Island Expressway is currently designated a local truck route, meaning commercial traffic is only allowed onto the street in order to make local deliveries.

“They’re not using it for local deliveries, they’re just using it to go through Brooklyn,” Nunziato said.

The bypass would direct trucks traveling westbound from the LIE service road onto Maurice Avenue and then to Rust Street, which was recently reconstructed at a cost of more than $7 million instead of bringing them along local roads that were not designed to sustain commercial traffic.

“This resolution is saying, ‘Stay on the expressway, don’t get off in our town,’” Nunziato said. “But if they do want to take the back roads to get there a little quicker, we have truck routes that were done at a cost of $7 million.”

The resolution also calls for signs to be placed directing truck drivers to the designated routes.

In May, Nunziato joined U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and CB 5 Vice Chairman Bob Holden at the intersection of 69th Street and Grand Avenue to demand that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conduct a comprehensive study of air quality in the area. Residents fear that pollution created by the LIE, power plants and the airports have combined to pose a serious air-quality problem in Maspeth.

The resolution states that 3,000 trucks and vans travel along Grand Avenue in any one direction during the work day.

A traffic survey made from Feb. 1 to Feb. 9, the resolution said, found that 512 large trucks, 212 waste trucks, 2,439 other trucks and vans, and 3,848 passenger cars traveled westbound along Grand Avenue between 69th Street and 61st Street from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastbound figures were only slightly lower.

Nunziato also decried municipal-waste trucks going through the area and recommended that the garbage be transported out of state only by barge or train.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.