Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Hate to Say I Told You So, But . . .

The only topic of discussion at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting last Thursday was how to eliminate the truck routes through Hudson. Joining the committee for the discussion were city attorney Cheryl Roberts; Sheena Salvino, executive director of HDC; Duke Duchessi and Bill Roehr, from TGW Consultants; and Nick Melson, chief of staff for Assemblymember Didi Barrett.

The meeting started out on a disheartening note, with a report from Roberts about relevant case law. In 2009, the City of Lackawanna tried to prohibit trucks with a gross weight in excess of 10,000 pounds from traveling anywhere in the city except on two designated routes. By doing so, they reduced the number of truck routes through Lackawanna from three to two. The City was sued by Baynes Freight Contractors whose trucks used the eliminated truck route to deliver milk to a Sorrento cheese factory in an adjoining municipality, Buffalo. In December 2011, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, ruled that the city ordinance eliminating the third truck route in Lackawanna was invalid.

As happens whenever the problem of trucks in Hudson is discussed, there were lots of suggestions, most of which seem never to be acted on. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), himself an attorney, suggested the City needed to "go to the legislature." "Design what we want the law to read [regarding municipal control over transient truck traffic] and go to the legislature," he recommended.

 
Don Moore, Council president and chair of the Economic Development Committee, shared a recommendation from our new code enforcement officer, Craig Haigh, who used to be a long haul trucker: signage. The assumption is that truckers don't like negotiating Hudson's narrow and congested streets and would happily go a few miles out of their way to avoid them. The problem is, of course, figuring out an appropriate place to put the signs. If they are placed at the city limits, it's too late for truckers to opt for another route.

Alderman David Marston (First Ward), who apparently has been tasked with ferreting out and assembling data, shared the information, from the New York State Department of Transportation, that Green Street is the busiest street in Hudson--much busier than Columbia Street. This is not surprising, considering that Routes 9 and 9G through Hudson converge on Green Street and all trucks moving through the city--including those carrying gravel bound for the port--travel along Green Street, but it is interesting, considering how many complaints about the truck route have to do with Columbia Street. Case in point, Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) suggested, as others from the Second and Fourth wards have before her, that, to inconvenience the truckers and encourage them to seek routes around that city, the truck route be moved from Columbia Street to Warren Street.
  
Roberts wanted information, from DPW and other sources, to measure the impact of Widewaters, a.k.a. Greenport Commons, on truck traffic and on the city's infrastructure. "They are getting the tax revenue from all the development," said Roberts, "and we're getting the traffic." Unfortunately, most people didn't have the prescience to see this coming. In January 2007, when the Greenport Planning Board was reviewing the Widewaters project, this writer, then an alderman representing the First Ward, introduced a resolution in the Common Council finding that "the traffic impacts from the project are likely to have significant impact upon the City of Hudson, its infrastructure, historic buildings, and quality of life" and recommending and requesting that the Town of Greenport Planning Board issue a Positive Declaration under SEQRA, direct the applicant to do a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and list Hudson as an "interested agency" in the SEQRA review. The Common Council did not pass the resolution. Most of the aldermen then on the Council shared the opinion voiced by Doc Donahue, then as now Fifth Ward alderman, that Hudson shouldn't try to tell Greenport what to do.
   
Friedman made the suggestion that the Hudson police be trained to "monitor the trucks and all the laws that apply to trucks"--the idea being that if truckers think there's a likelihood that they will be stopped, detained, and possibly ticketed in Hudson, they will go to whatever lengths necessary to bypass the city to reach a destination on the other side. If enforcing the law could dissuade truckers from traveling through Hudson, it seems there are things the police could be doing already to achieve this goal. Stewart reported complaints about trucks speeding and barreling through yellow lights without even slowing down. Stewart's comment inspired Friedman to suggest that the City impose higher fines for moving violations on vehicles with more than two axles.

The search for relief from the tyranny of trucks in the city continues.
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLE OSTERINK

12 comments:

  1. Given the assumption that truckers don't like negotiating Hudson's narrow and congested streets and would happily go a few miles out of their way to avoid them. And the problem is notifying the truckers so they can make the right decision for themselves. Let's use social media to help us out ...from twitter to Facebook. My expertise is not in this area, but it seems to me, it could work.

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  2. Cheryl Roberts is wrong: Greenport is not getting all the tax revenue from Widewaters. All sales tax collected in the county goes to the County. There is no record of how much comes from each town or the city of Hudson. All of it goes to the county. The county then sends a large portion -- I am not sure, but think it is half or more -- to the state. What is left is divided between the towns based on population. Greenport is not as populace as Claverack, Kinderhook, or Hudson so they all get more money back than Greenport. Further, my recollection is that Hudson already has some special deal and gets more back than its population would lead to. And, to the best of my knowledge Greenport has no such special deal. What Greenport gets is a pittance relative to what we have to cover. Not only wear to our infrastructure but also police and fire, etc. It would be good if Hudson's attorney knew what she was talking about before flaming the fires that pit Hudson and Greenport against each other.

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    1. @ hudson: I believe Roberts, although she was not specific, was talking about property tax revenue not sales tax revenue since she made reference to "development."

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    2. First of all, let me say that I know someone else posts here as Hudson and I have tried to change my posting name in google, with no success.

      Also, there is an error in the post above. I say that what is left after sending half of sales tax revenue to the state is divided between the towns and Hudson. But, I forgot about the amount the county keeps prior to the distribution. They keep 70% of the portion not sent to the state, or 35% of what is collected, leaving 15% of the sales tax collected to be split among the 19 towns and Hudson. So, no town (or Hudson) is getting rich on sales tax revenue.

      And, as I read the comments in your post and the paper, I did assume she meant the sales tax. That is because I was not aware that the county did any sharing of their revenues from property taxes while I was aware of the sharing of sales tax revenues. Does the county share what they get in property taxes in any way?

      Elizabeth Nyland -- (try to post as HudsonElizabeth, but am denied by google.)

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  3. A quote from David Woodin (DOT) January 3, 2011: "One of the points I made at the meeting was that the City of Hudson could control some of the truck traffic that passes through the city. One of my duties is to designate highways within the state (both state and local highways) for use by a class of vehicles called special dimension vehicles. This category of trucks include 53’ trailers, stinger steered autocarriers, tractor trailer combinations that are longer than 65 ft overall (usually due to a long sleeper cab), and twin 28’ pup tandem trailers. All of these vehicle combinations meet the standard weight requirements (80,000 pounds maximum), but they require special permission to operate because they exceed the maximum vehicle combination length of 65 feet. Most importantly, although these vehicles are longer than the standard legal combination, their operating characteristics are such that they can turn as well or better than the standard 48 foot trailer w/cab (this 65 foot vehicle combination is the benchmark vehicle for operation comparisons).

    Looking at the map of designated truck routes for special dimension vehicles within Hudson, I had told the audience that some of the major truck routes through the city allows tractor trailer combinations, but not tractor trailer combinations over 65 feet. The local police could issue tickets to those offending vehicles. The downside is that once a ticket is issued, the operator usually applies for the route to be designated. It is a 90 day process and the criteria evaluates specific geometric issues like lane width, accident history, and use of the route by standard 48 foot tractor trailer combinations. Typically 99% of all requests are approved. Dislike of large trucks and local opposition are not factors that are considered."

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  4. It's ridiculous that the health and safety of residents and visitors to homes and businesses on the truck route has no advocate, but it's assumed that the polluting trucks do. You can discuss for years on end, as it appears Hudson does, with no change to the status quo . . . .but at some point, someone needs to be designated to do the work to find out what solution would work.

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    1. Regarding the additional traffic the Greenport shopping center expansion meant for Hudson, the above post explains how we rejected a role to find a less harmful outcome at the moment of our greatest opportunity.

      The Gossips author herself sponsored the all-important legislation for our city legislature to influence beforehand the inevitable adverse traffic effects, while others circulated a petition which didn't garner much support.

      In the State of New York at least, a mere handful of advocates can't influence very much on their own. The opportunity made available by the state-required State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) is effective only when everyone who's impacted by a proposed action takes an interest.

      Years ago when the City of Hudson had this opportunity, the Common Council relinquished any role for the city concerning the soon-to-increase truck traffic. It was then that the truck issue should have been addressed, but aldermen such as Mr. Donoghue denied us the privilege, which in turn ended up hurting Greenport too.

      Wherever broad public interest is lacking, SEQR is notoriously vulnerable to being manipulated, just as it was in Greenport (Widewaters), and more recently in the City of Hudson (LWRP; zoning amendments; Holcim land transfer).

      All of these corruptions were the direct result of the vacuum left by too few citizens getting involved. We don't need more "designated" advocates; what we need is a less passive citizenry.

      Having said that, my sincere thanks to all who've posted on this subject, including Ms. Capps.

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  5. The problems of truck traffic throughout Columbia County have been abounding for many, many years because individual City & Town government agencies have little or no means or authority to resolve the issues of State highways. Until the County Board of Supervisors can present a united front & a comprehensive plan to the NYS DOT, nothing, and I mean nothing, will happen for any municipality in this county.

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  6. When the developers of the Widewaters or Greenport Commons mall (whatever it is calling itself these days) was discussed at meetings of the Columbia County IDA (Industrial Development Agency) a few years ago, many citizens who watch such things, attended meetings and brought up the issue of increased traffic on both Route 9 and Joslen Blvd. Our concerns fell on deaf ears, who only heard "jobs" and "increased sales tax revenue." It did not take long after Widewaters/Greenport Commons was built, for the complaints about traffic to be heard. I cannot stress enough how important these meetings of the economic development agencies, IDAs, planning boards, and zoning boards are. And White Whale is right--the county needs a comprehensive plan.

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  7. http://www.nymir.org/pdf/NYMIR%20Marcellus%20Roads%20FINAL.pdf

    A link to a good explanation on the subject. I suspect that one decision by an intermediate court that is fact specific does not end the matter

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  8. RE truck routes: Since most trucks have GPS why not appeal to the companies that do the upgrades for these systems to direct trucks around Hudson as the most desirable route.

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    1. Actually, that is one of the strategies mentioned at the meeting.

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