ASTORIA — Elected officials are calling on the Department of Transportation to allow large trucks to drive on a portion of the Grand Central Parkway — an effort to alleviate "paralyzing" traffic the big-rigs are causing on Astoria's residential streets, they say.
Commercial vehicles are currently banned from the parkway, with the exception of the stretch between the RFK-Triborough Bridge and the western end of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Currently, that approximately 14-block area allows for smaller trucks as long as they have "no more than three axles and ten tires," according to the DOT.
Astoria officials want that same stretch open to trucks of any size, which they say would keep larger vehicles making their way to the bridge on the parkway instead of on residential streets like Astoria Boulevard, where they're causing traffic mayhem, they say.
"The number one thing I hear about on these corridors is, 'Why are all these bigs trucks here?'" said Councilman Costa Constantinides, who represents the area and held a press conference Friday alongside Sen. Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas.
The volume of traffic along Astoria Boulevard has increased in recent years, he says, exacerbated by a plethora of construction on the roadway and made worse by the presence of large trucks like 18-wheelers.
"It's been paralyzing on certain days in northern Astoria," he said. "Keep these trucks where they belong, because they certainly don’t belong in Astoria."
Smaller trucks have been allowed to drive on the Grand Central between the BQE and the Triborough Bridge since 2004, when the state legislature passed a bill — sponsored by Gianaris — in an earlier effort to combat Astoria traffic.
The senator said expanding that to include larger trucks would be a "win-win" for residents as well as commercial drivers, who would have a more convenient route between the bridge and the BQE.
"Astoria residents have suffered long enough due to large trucks using our local roads creating massive traffic, unbearable noise and damaged streets," Gianaris said in a statement.
A spokesman for the DOT said the agency was open to hearing ideas for fixing local traffic.
"We are always willing to partner with local communities and authorities to discuss ideas about alleviating traffic, improving mobility and enhancing safety," the spokesman said.
The DOT will also be taking feedback from local residents during an open house on its "Smart Truck Management Plan," which will take place Tuesday night starting at 6:30 p.m. at LaGuardia Community College, according to the agency.