By Bill Parry
Astoria’s elected officials are working with city and state agencies to allow all trucks to travel on a section of the Grand Central Parkway between the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
The city’s Department of Transportation currently only allows small trucks to use that portion of highway, forcing the big rigs to exit the Grand Central Parkway and creating heavy traffic on the service road and neighborhood streets.
“All Astorians deserve access to streets without unbearable traffic, loud noises and heavy fumes,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said. “Opening the parkway to all truck between the BQE and the bridge would be beneficial to our environment and for traffic safety. Taking this move would be a solid step towards Astoria Boulevard feeling less like a highway for big trucks and more like the street that our seniors, families and residents need it to be every day.”
Not only do the big rigs affect the environment with the emission of heavy fumes, they do damage to the roads they travel on. Astoria residents, including seniors at at Douris Tower, endure loud, window-rattling noise on a regular basis.
“Astoria residents have suffered long enough due to the large trucks using our local roads creating massive traffic, unbearable noise and damaged streets,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “This simple fix would alleviate these problems while facilitating commerce by creating greater convenience for truck drivers. It’s a win-win sollution that should be implemented immediately.”
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) compared the traffic from heavy trucks to an invading army that torments thousands of residents each day.
“It’s illogical, thoughtless and cruel to force a residential neighborhood to be a truck route when there is an alternative, available major thoroughfare, namely the Grand Central Parkway,” she said. “Opening up this tiny section of the parkway — which is no longer the quiet scenic roadway envisioned originally — is a solution begging to be implemented. The benefit of better air quality and the residents’ enjoyment of quiet homes will be felt for generations when big trucks are taken off these local streets.”
Gianaris has spoken with the DOT and the governor and was told the roadway would have to be lowered so the overpasses are high enough to accommodate big rigs. Gianaris added the DOT said such a project is financially feasible and the next step is to put it in the budget next year.
The DOT will be holding a public meeting Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at LaGuradia Community College on its “Smart Truck Management Plan.”
“We are always willing to partner with local communities and authorities to discuss ideas about alleviating traffic, improving mobility and enhancing safety,” a DOT spokeswoman said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr