STRAYING TRUCKS; NEEDED: A STATEWIDE ROUTING SYSTEM
By Senator Charles Schumer
Post Standard - 12/13/07
Last year, I stood on Route 20 in front of the Sherwood Inn by Skaneateles Lake, which supplies Syracuse's drinking water, and attempted to speak about my proposal to curtail runaway truck traffic on rural roads in Central New York and the Finger Lakes. As if on cue, truck after gigantic truck rumbled past, making it enormously difficult to be heard. Given the size of the trucks and the narrowness of the road - it was a little harrowing, too.
Without a doubt, the largest and smelliest trucks hauled garbage, the lion's share originating from New York City. These drivers, contracted by the city, use small, local roads in an effort to save gas money and avoid tolls on Interstates 90 and 81 en route to the Seneca Meadows landfill.
Flash forward to this summer, as I visited the great New York State Fair, where family after family stopped me and pleaded for more help to address the plague of trucks relentlessly disturbing their communities.
Balancing the efficiency and flow of interstate commerce - enshrined in our very Constitution - with the obvious harmful impacts of these short-cutting trucks is a complex, long-term issue. But it was crystal clear to me that something had to be done.
As a result, I initiated negotiations to get New York City and its solid waste trucking contractor, IESI, to live up to the letter and spirit of their contract, which stipulates haulers should remain on primary highways and away from local streets, residential and "environmentally sensitive" areas.
During the meeting, community representatives and I pushed the city to use the terms of its contract to designate particular routes "environmentally sensitive" - specifically, those roads near Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles Lakes. We convinced the city to commit to direct its haulers to avoid these roads. The city also pledged to require its trucking contractors only to use interstates and highways when it renegotiates its contracts beginning in 2008.
It was a good first step. Yet trucks hauling New York City garbage across our towns are only one culprit in a much larger problem, because so many of the haulers either come from outside New York City and from private operations. Therefore, we need to forge parallel agreements with other municipalities and firms.
Most importantly, the ultimate solution lies in a statewide truck-routing system that will keep trucks on interstates unless they have a local delivery or pick up, or need to make a quick stop for food and gas. Right now, the authority to establish this kind of system across the state lies with the state Department of Transportation, but it has been reluctant to act.
Luckily, the state Senate has successfully passed legislation sponsored by John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, which requires NYSDOT to route long-haul garbage on the same roads it currently uses for hazardous materials. I will encourage Gov. Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Silver to support this legislation.
On the federal level, I am the sponsor of legislation that requires states to establish standard highway routes for trucks carrying hazardous materials and long-haul municipal solid waste. The bill is under review by the Senate Commerce Committee, and I'm working with them to figure out the best vehicle to move it forward.
There is no one-dimensional fix to solve a problem that has plagued communities across Central New York and the Finger Lakes region for over a decade, which is why I'm working on a multi-faceted approach. But without a state-established routing system, these trucks will continue to disrupt our local lifestyle, while creating significant safety and infrastructure problems.