By Nathan Duke
Western Queens elected officials are calling on the city to allow large trucks to approach the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway from the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge rather than force the vehicles to drive through Astoria’s streets.
Small commercial trucks have been permitted to use the Grand Central Parkway to reach the BQE from the bridge, which spans the East River and connects Astoria to Manhattan and the Bronx, in the eastbound direction since November 2003.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said they want the city Department of Transportation to allow larger commercial vehicles to approach the bridge from the expressway as well.
“If these large trucks are not allowed to travel this short distance on the GCP, traffic will back up on the exit ramp from the RFK, causing a serious hazard on the bridge,” Vallone said. “This plan also has the added benefit of finally removing these large trucks from our congested neighborhood streets.”
The councilman said a newly installed DOT traffic signal at 29th Street and Hoyt Avenue has been backing up truck traffic on the bridge.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Bridges and Tunnels division wants to perform construction that will allow trucks higher than 12 feet 6 inches to stay on the Grand Central to gain access to the BQE.
By grinding down the highway lowerï»¿, larger vehicles will meet clearance requirements, which could improve the operation of the new traffic signal and reduce traffic delays, Vallone said.
The intersection currently causes safety concerns, the councilman said.
Trucks with three axles are still required to exit the highway onto the busy intersection at 31st Street in Astoria. The vehicles must make a sharp right turn onto 29th Street and then a sharp left onto Astoria Boulevard to avoid the low clearance on Hoyt Avenue South, which runs underneath the elevated N train tracks.
“Astoria residents have suffered for too long from air and noise pollution caused by truck traffic passing through our community,” Gianaris said. “Allowing trucks to bypass our local streets and stay on the Grand Central Parkway will go a long way towards improving traffic flow and the quality of life of our neighbors.”
The intersection is often listed as one of the busiest and most accident-prone in the borough.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.