New Regulations for Bridges Stifle Local Area Businesses

Tue September 18, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Mary S. Yamin-Garone

When the I-35W Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in July, its effects were far-reaching. In New York City — in what has been described as a knee-jerk reaction — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) imposed a ban on heavy trucks crossing its Bronx-Long Island bridge spans, particularly the Throgs Neck Bridge. That action has caused financial hardship for many area businesses.

Prior to the collapse, overweight trucks weighing between 80,000 and 105,000 lbs. (36,287 to 47,627 kg) with six- or seven-axles were permitted to cross the Throgs Neck any time of the day or night provided they held a special permit and adhered to certain rules, such as traveling under 30 mi. per hour (mph) in the center lane.

Now — for the second time — a daytime ban on six- and seven-axle trucks more than 80,000 lbs. has been imposed. Vehicles with New York City and New York State divisible load permits that are carrying up to 105,000 lbs., and five-axle trucks transporting up to 100,000 lbs. (45,359 kg), are permitted to travel over the Throgs Neck Bridge but only between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

The MTA made the move after routine inspections found cracks in some of the bridge’s approaches. While authorities have claimed those damages were caused by heavy trucks crossing over the bridge, there is no evidence to support that theory.

The Throgs Neck is not the only bridge that has fallen victim to the new regulations. Similar regulations apply to the following bridges:

• Bronx-Whitestone: no overweight trucks are permitted.

• Triborough: overweight trucks must make arrangements in advance with bridge personnel.

• Verrazano-Narrows: overweight trucks must contact the desk officer in advance.

• Cross Bay Veterans Memorial: overweight trucks must contact the desk officer in advance.

• George Washington: overweight trucks must contact the desk officer in advance.

• Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial: overweight trucks must contact the desk officer in advance.

Businesses Suffer

Nick Chamanello, owner of Champ Construction Corp., and Split Rock Materials in Inwood, N.Y., is one of the many business owners feeling the pinch of the state regulations.

“Since the new regulations took effect, my business has dropped between 50 and 60 percent yet I am still paying the same amount of insurance. I still have the same payroll every week and I’m not making any money. Like other businesses, we are just waiting to see what is going to happen; waiting for an answer. In the meantime, we are trying to hold on. The question we are asking ourselves now is do we downsize the business or get out of the business?” he said.

In spite of his difficulties, Chamanello considers himself one of the lucky ones.

“I have several good accounts/customers on both sides of the Throgs Neck. I’m either on one side or the other and I’m not crossing anything in between. If I do have to cross the bridge I’m crossing empty,” he said.

Leonard J. Luiso, president of Byram Concrete & Supply Inc., of White Plains, N.Y., said that although his firm doesn’t move trucks over the Throgs Neck and Triborough bridges, his suppliers do use those spans to transport materials to his work sites.

“It drastically affects our material suppliers — the sand that we use from Long Island. This dramatically increases its price,” Luiso said. “They were bringing over 32-ton loads and now they’re down to 22-ton loads. It is almost doubling the trucking costs, which translates into approximately a 10 percent increase in product cost.”

Fighting Back

Trucking interests, including the Road Transportation Association (RTA) and the Construction Trucking Association (CTA), sought a temporary injunction in August to lift the ban, specifically on the Throgs Neck and Triborough bridges. The RTA was successful in reaching a settlement with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority two years ago that allowed heavy trucks with six- and seven-axles up to 105,000 lbs. to travel over the Throgs Neck Bridge 24 hours a day.

In its defense, the MTA insists that, “the Throgs Neck Bridge is safe for the motoring public. In order to maintain its safety, MTA Bridges and Tunnels is taking certain necessary actions that affect a segment of the trucking industry in order to maintain its safety.”

The Throgs Neck Bridge opened in 1961. It was built between the Bronx and Queens to ease congestion on the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. Traffic on each of these bridges now exceeds the number of vehicles carried by just the Bronx Whitestone when it stood alone. The bridge continues to be a vital link in New York City’s interstate highway system. On the Bronx side, it feeds into the Cross Bronx and Bruckner expressways, the Hutchinson River Parkway and the New England Thruway, providing access to New Jersey, upstate New York, Westchester County and New England. On the Queens side, it feeds the Cross Island Parkway, the Clearview and Long Island expressways and the Grand Central Parkway, which lead to Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn and points west.

(Some background information courtesy of CEG

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