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Bypass route fails to stem Maspeth truck traffic

Photo by Bianca Fortis
By Bianca Fortis

Nearly two years since the Maspeth Bypass was implemented, residents say truck traffic still is a nuisance in their neighborhood.

About 45 people stood on the corner of 64th Street and Flushing Avenue last Thursday morning to protest the truckers who cut through Queens to avoid traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

And they counted the many trucks that passed by: Within one-hour period from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., about 275 trucks had driven through the intersection.

“Multiply that by 12 hours a day, and that’s a lot of traffic,” said Roe Daraio, president of the COMET Civic Association

Illegal truck traffic has been a problem for years and activists say it is a quality of life issue.

“We’re inhaling diesel fumes, you can’t cross the street safely — I don’t know what people with young kids do — and the noise is unbearable,” Loraine Donohue said.

Other times truckers get lost navigating the neighborhood or get stuck in major intersections.

In response to complaints, the Maspeth Bypass was implemented in October 2011 after a $500,000 study and a decade of debate. It was designed to route traffic around the residential and commercial portions of the community by introducing new traffic patterns.

But almost two years later, civic leaders say it is not working. Truck drivers outright ignore the bypass, even when they are not making local deliveries. And activists say they believe truckers are passing through in the middle of the night to avoid police enforcement.

Daraio said the purpose of the protest was to let residents know COMET is working to address the problem and to bring attention to city officials that the bypass route needs work.

But the truckers noticed the protest, too, and some of the drivers honked at protesters and gave them the finger.

“Well, they saw our signs and heard our whistles, and they’re like, ‘Up your nose with a rubber hose,’” Donohue said.

COMET believes the problem lies in a lack of enforcement. The civic members want more NYPD units equipped to stop truck drivers and they want judges in traffic court to enforce the summonses written to truckers.

“If you can save an hour by cutting through here and all you risk is a slap on the wrist, what would you rather do?” Daraio said. “What good is a law if it’s not enforced?”

A representative of the city Department of Transportation said the DOT works closely with the freight industry and the NYPD to develop and distribute educational materials to both police officers and truckers. The DOT is also asking for input from truckers on the Maspeth Bypass route so that the next one, which is being developed, will be better.

Capt. Christopher Manson said the NYPD plans to install better signs directing traffic and is considering implementing a temporary weigh station for trucks.

But, he said, it will take time to address the problem.

“This has been a problem since probably the 1920s,” Manson said, pointing out that the area lies between Long Island and the heart of Brooklyn. “And it will probably be here until 2220. We can try to lessen it, but it won’t go away.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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