By Stephen Witt
You don’t need to be a traffic agent to know that trucks are infamous for going off the legal truck routes, particularly in Downtown Brooklyn. The question remains what to do about it. The issue was discussed at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing on the subject last week. “This is the No. 1 issue for Brooklyn Heights, drawing the most complaints from residents, arising from our location adjacent to the BQE, which marks our western boundary,” testified Michael McCarthy, a board member of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “In addition, our neighborhood is the gateway to both the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, and Atlantic Avenue, which is the southern boundary of Brooklyn Heights, and a heavily used truck route.” McCarthy said container-sized trucks are too large to make turns on such intersections as Schermerhorn and Clinton streets, and Joralemon and Clinton streets. McCarthy said Brooklyn Heights is concerned about the length and weight of trucks traveling its streets and believes that this is an appropriate time for the City to clamp down on the size and weight limits. This is especially needed in anticipation of the Ikea in Red Hook, the arena project at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and the cruise industry coming to the borough, said McCarthy. “These projects will undoubtedly contribute and even add more over-sized trucks to the existing mix,” he said. Noah Budnick, Brooklyn coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle advocacy organization, testified that stronger police enforcement is needed to counter the many trucks who go off the designated and legal truck routes. “Cracking down on over-size trucks must be incorporated into truck route and routine traffic enforcement,” said Budnick. “Precincts in Brooklyn worked with the Brooklyn Borough President’s office to make truck route enforcement a priority,” he added. Budnick noted that last year, the NYPD gave out 3,900 truck violations, while issuing 45,000 bicycle summonses. The City Council Transportation Committee Chair John Liu questioned why there has been a delay in a DOT neighborhood truck traffic report, which was originally scheduled for completion by the summer of 2004. “There is no good reason for the prolonged delay in the DOT’s plan to manage truck traffic in our city,” said Liu. “It’s troubling to me that the delay was caused in part because the DOT decided belatedly to factor in accident data. Originally excluding such important statistics calls into question the overall soundness of the study,” he added. DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall blamed the delay in issuing the report on “an underestimation of the length of time required for such a large undertaking” and the expansion of the scope of the study. Weinshall said that the report would be completed by mid-April, at a cost of $1.5 million. DOT officials also revealed plans for increasing usage of signs throughout the City that would both designate truck routes and explicitly mark streets where commercial traffic is prohibited. Meanwhile NYPD officials said they have plans for increased traffic enforcement for trucks that go off designated routes. However, most Council members in attendance expressed frustration that the City administration has been dragging its heels to alleviate the problem. “So long as children are dying in accidents with trucks in their own residential neighborhoods, we need to be acting on this issue sooner rather than later,” said Council member Letitia James.