Sunday, March 5, 2023

Looking Back Seventy Years

In July 2022, Sam Pratt, who served on a committee that attempted to move the truck routes out of Hudson in the late 1990s, sent a letter to Mayor Kamal Johnson and members of the Common Council sharing five points about the truck routes in Hudson. His first point was this:
The State Truck Route was going to be removed from Hudson in the 1950s after the creation of the highway connecting the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and Bell’s Pond, which didn’t exist before then. However, due to an irrational fear by then-City leaders that the change could somehow hurt Hudson business, this was opposed, and Hudson residents have suffered an estimated 100 million truck trips in the ensuing seven decades. You as the leaders of today have a chance to correct your predecessors’ grievous error.
The decision back in the 1950s may not have been totally irrational. In the 1950s, the construction of the interstate highway system was having an adverse effect on towns no longer on the route of the new highway system. Although Hudson's leaders at the time may have been motivated by fears of a similar fate for Hudson, they did not anticipate the effect of their decision three generations later. 

I was reminded of the 1950s plan to remove the state truck route from Hudson yesterday when I discovered these photographs by Howard Gibson of two intersections in Hudson heavily impacted today by the continuing presence of the state truck route. The pictures of the intersection of Worth Avenue and Warren Street, on the Route 9 truck route, were taken in 1957; the pictures of the intersection of Warren and Third streets, on the Route 9G truck route, were taken in 1955. 

It appears that back then Hudson was a much quieter place when it came to traffic, particularly trucks just passing through.

Pratt's entire letter can be found here.


  1. Interstate highways and State truck routes are two completely different animals, so I don’t really see how 1950s concerns about the former were/are relevant to either the 1950s debate or today’s discussion — except perhaps as embodied in rather abstract and subjective fears from the same Chamber of Commerce types who have consistently made terrible decisions about local development.

    1. Hudson never had an “interstate highway” to begin with. Today, the only such highway passing through the County is I-90, in the northern reaches of Columbia, and I’ve never heard anyone try to connect the trajectory of Hudson from the ’50s forward to the distant presence of I-90. The NYS Thruway, I-87, is much closer, and I likewise know of no credible evidence that its existence helped or hindered Hudson business in the 20th Century.

    2. Had the plan to have non-local trucking go around Hudson been enacted in the 1950s, businesses in Hudson still would have had easy and unfettered access to the State truck route. They simply would have gone out 3rd Street/9G to join it.

    3. If anything, the opening of the RVW Bridge allowed trucks to pass much closer to Hudson than ever before, and could only have helped industry if indeed such traffic ever has any spin-off effect. Yet many of the industries often touted in nostalgic accounts of Hudson died anyway, even though the truck route was kept in town.

    4. Indeed, as I reported both on my blog some years ago, and in the current print issue of The Woodchuck, a 1960s paper by R. Mary Wend (a Hudson resident and NYU grad student) noted that industry was failing in Hudson in the 1954-1964 period, despite the rosy memories of some residents of this as some sort of golden era of industry. Hudson had major unemployment at that time, and needed Federal assistance to deal with it, Wend wrote.

    5. To this day, there are few civic or political leaders who seem to have any real interest in developing a clear understanding of why a wide variety of industries as diverse as whaling, textiles, bottling/canning, cement, vaporizers, and others disappeared from Hudson across the span of 200+ years. Few lessons seem to be learned, with simplistic explanations, convenient evasions and scapegoating substituting for analysis.

  2. I say the photos may show a typical Sunday in Hudson up to the early ‘60s. Almost every business was closed on a Sunday. Also at the time of photos a Hudson Law existed that forbade all trucks from Warren St. There’s no easy or fair solution to our neighbors.