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Front Page November 23, 2012  RSS feed

Maspeth Bypass, A Year Later

Fewer Trucks, But Activists Seek Improvement
by Robert Pozarycki

With truck traffic along Grand Avenue in Maspeth down by 20 percent, the Maspeth truck bypass implemented by the city Department of Transportation (DOT) last year seems to be effective, but local civic leaders argue that more must be done to keep rigs off the neighborhood’s main commercial strip.

The Times Newsweekly received from Community Board 5 last week an update from the DOT regarding the Maspeth Bypass roughly a year after it was officially enacted.

According to the DOT, truck traffic along Grand Avenue is down by 20 percent “during the peak hours” on mornings (7:30 to 8:30 a.m.), midday (1 to 2 p.m.) and evenings (5 to 6 p.m.). Meanwhile, truck traffic has increased by 32 percent along the bypass routes of Maurice Avenue and 58th Street through the industrial section of Maspeth.

Adesire of Maspeth civic activists for more than a decade, the Maspeth Bypass is designed to direct tractortrailers and other commercial vehicles which normally pass through along Grand and Flushing avenues between Brooklyn and Long Island into the industrial sector.

Traveling from Brooklyn, trucks are directed from Grand Avenue to turn north onto Page Place, then east on Maspeth Avenue to the “five-point intersection” of Maspeth Avenue, Maurice Avenue, 58th Street, 57th Terrace and 57th Place.

The DOT reconfigured the intersection to reduce potentially hazardous turning conflicts and changed Maurice Avenue and 58th Street from two-way roads into one-way streets between the intersection and 55th Drive (Maurice Avenue is used for northbound traffic; 58th Street for southbound traffic).

Trucks heading east from Brooklyn travel on Maurice Avenue to Borden Avenue, where they can access the Long Island Expressway (LIE).

Rigs traveling from LIE westbound are directed through signs to exit at Maurice Avenue, then to travel west along Borden Avenue to 58th Street.

From there, the trucks turn south to the “five point intersection” then travel west along Maurice Avenue, followed by south on Page Place to Grand Avenue.

After the bypass plan was implemented, the DOT noted that it installed traffic control devices along the route, including signals at the intersections of Page Place and Grand Avenue and Maurice and 56th avenues.

The agency is also installing additional directional signs along the Long Island Expressway and throughout the bypass route to better direct trucks.

Even with the bypass in place, store keepers and other Maspeth residents continue to see large tractortrailers— some of which purportedly exceed the city’s 53’-long size limit—traveling along Grand Avenue on a regular basis, according to Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA).

“Twenty percent is nothing to write home about,” he told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview on Monday, Nov. 19. “The trucks are still using [Grand Avenue] as a cut through, and it is still having a negative impact on business and the neighborhood.”

“We know the DOT is trying and we appreciate that,” he added, stating that the city needs to increase enforcement efforts along Grand Avenue in order to have more truck drivers utilize the bypass.

“We need more from the NYPD and DOT, because no matter what they do, if a truck is operating illegally in the city, they’re going to disregard any kind of notices from the DOT,” Holden said, pointing out that the bypass route itself is “non-binding.”

“We would hope in the near future that if this was working, they (the DOT) would look at abolishing all truck traffic except for local deliveries on Grand Avenue,” he added.

Echoing those sentiments was Tony Nunziato, a Maspeth businessman and member of the JPCA who was one of the first to advocate for the Maspeth Bypass plan.

“They still have a long way to go,” he told this newspaper in a phone interview. “People never say anything until they see something wrong. I have people come into my business and say there’s still trucks on the avenue.”

Nunziato noted that the state Department of Transportation and the NYPD have regularly conducted enforcement operations along Grand Avenue to curb truck traffic, including the set up of temporary weigh stations to check for violations. The enforcement is effective, and he suggested that additional operations should take place along the shopping strip.

When the Maspeth Bypass plan was being debated publicly in 2011, many businesses along the proposed route expressed concerns about the changes to traffic patterns and the like. Some, such as the Junior’s Cheesecake factory on Maurice Avenue near 56th Avenue, even suggested that the proposal would make their continued operation untenable and threatened to move elsewhere.

For now, Junior’s remains at its Maspeth location, according to Jean Tanler of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association. She told the Times Newsweekly that “for the most part, businesses have adjusted well to the bypass,” through there are complications from time to time.

“When they first implemented the bypass, businesses were receiving tickets,” Tanler said. “It seems that since then, there was a period of adjustment.”

One particular trouble spot has been 55th Drive between Maurice Avenue and 58th Street, which is often congested due to double-parked trucks, Tanler said. But that problem “seems to come and go,” she said.

“There is increased traffic on 58th Street and Maurice Avenue, but everything seems to be adapting,” she added.