Truck ban pitched for Amsterdam street

Plan to rebuild portion of street questioned by some residents
A Tractor-trailer drives along Church Street in Amsterdam on Dec. 14.
A Tractor-trailer drives along Church Street in Amsterdam on Dec. 14.

AMSTERDAM — Trucks weighing more than 13 tons could be banned from using Church Street, under a proposal floated at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas announced his intention to introduce a city ordinance to ban large trucks from the thoroughfare, which is designated a New York state truck route. 

Dybas, a Democrat, hosted a meeting of Church Street residents in the city hall annex building on Friday. He said he invited the New York State Department of Transportation to send a representative to hear the concerns of the people who live on Church Street, but no state official attended. 

“They keep telling me it’s a city street,” he said. “If it’s a city street, then I can set weight limits on city streets. I can set speed limits on city streets. I can bar 26-wheel vehicles overloaded on a city street.” 

Church Street residents have complained for years about the dangers of tractor-trailer traffic driving. Some homeowners have seen structural damage due to the vibrations from the trucks. Others have had pictures fall off walls, and many worry about the danger of the trucks hitting someone.

Last year, Amsterdam received essentially double the amount of state funding necessary to reconstruct the area of Church Street most impacted by truck traffic — between Cornell Street and Clizbe Avenue. A $900,000 grant, through the New York State Dormitory Authority, was secured by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and another $1 million was secured by New York State Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam. 

City Engineer Richard Miller told The Daily Gazette on Jan. 25 that the $1.9 million is awaiting state approvals before the city can access the money. He said the funds will be used for complete reconstruction of the section of Church Street between Cornell Street and Clizbe Avenue. 

Cherylann Saul, a Church Street resident, attended both Tuesday’s Common Council meeting and Friday’s neighborhood meeting. She said the city’s plan to reconstruct part of Church Street has some positives, including reconfiguring the five corners of the street into a “perpendicular style, some traffic calming measures and enhanced school zone walkways.”

But she sees problems, too. The plan doesn’t address dilapidated sidewalks that are “changing in elevation” due to truck-induced vibrations, and the city’s plan does not replace the infrastructure underneath the road, she said. 

Miller has told The Daily Gazette that sewer lines under Church Street between Cornell Street and Clizbe Avenue have been checked with a video camera and do not need to be replaced. 

A more than 100-year-old clay sewer pipe collapsed beneath part of Church Street that runs parallel to Prospect Street in January, forcing the city to shut down part of the street, which is also State Route 67.

Mayor Michael Villa has estimated the repair cost at $50,000, which will come out of the sewer contingency fund. The collapsed pipe was discharging an estimated 5 gallons of untreated sewage per minute into the Chuctanunda Creek before repairs began. 

Deputy Mayor James Martuscello, who represents the 5th Ward, said the repairs became more expensive Tuesday because the crew replacing the line hit a water main near it, which will now require additional repairss.

Martuscello said he will likely support Dybas’ resolution to ban heavy trucks at the city’s next Common Council meeting, in part because the sewer line reconstruction has necessitated a detour that has temporarily eliminated the truck traffic.

“The detour has been very successful,” he said. “I’ve seen with my own eyes — they’re coming from the south, they take Route 5 east all the way to Widow Susan Road, and then they come up. If it’s legal, and we can do it, sure I’ll support it.” 

Villa, who did not respond to efforts to reach him for comment Tuesday night, has stated in the past that he believes the city has no authority to ban heavy truck traffic on Church Street, due to its designation as a truck route by the DOT. 

Dybas said that, in his view, if the state wants to treat Church street as a state highway, it should rebuild the road to the specifications of a state highway. He said he’d also like to see a compact roundabout built there as a traffic-calming measure. 

Police Chief Greg Culick told the council he hasn’t had any luck getting the DOT to approve stop signs for Church Street. 

Saul said she would like the Common Council to ask Santabarbara and Amedore to introduce state legislation to eliminate the DOT truck route designation for Church Street. She said DOT officials have told her the cost of a compact roundabout would be about $300,000. 

Culick said the cost of four stop signs might be $200, but he’s had no success in lobbying the state to allow them on Church Street. 

“The state is dead set against stop signs,” he said. 

Dybas said he plans to introduce the resolution to ban heavy truck traffic at the Council’s Feb. 19 meeting. 

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