After years of fighting for fewer tractor-trailers on rural roads through the Finger Lakes, officials throughout the region were told this week they will see tangible changes in the coming year.
At a meeting in Ithaca held Wednesday, Upstate Safety Task Force members were pleased to hear Gov. David Paterson’s assistant secretary for housing and infrastructure Michael Weber announce that Seneca Meadows Landfill is updating its contracts with haulers with a provision that Weber says will translate to less truck traffic.
Messages left for a Seneca Meadows representative were not returned.
According to Weber, Seneca Meadows agreed to add a requirement in trucking contracts that would force drivers to stick to the main highways while making trips to and from the landfill, no matter their origin or destination. By the end of this year, 80 percent of haulers will have the agreements with that requirement.
The remaining 20 percent will have new contracts and will be removed from local byway by mid-2011.
“I think it’s a big step forward. Two hundred to 300 municipal solid waste trucks are coming through the village, and this will remove that aspect,” Skaneateles Village Mayor Bob Green said. “This is going to be ongoing and we were assured that by Mike Weber. And there will be other (solutions) to the problems related to long-distance trucking.”
The meeting last week was set up last month by Dan Young, Paterson’s regional representative for central New York. When the task force met with Young, they vented their feeling of frustration about how members were not kept in the loop through the process of drafting and then reviewing a proposed truck regulation that would limit certain trucks from using seven roads in the Finger Lakes.
The members also shared these feeling with Weber, who acknowledged the poor communication the state Department of Transportation had with the task force.
Specifically, two coalition members attended a meeting in Albany on April 12 and were told that the regulations that would ban long-distance trucks from using those specific rural roads were off the table. Task force representatives Owasco Supervisor John Klink and Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey said they arrived to the meeting to find a different agenda than they were given and discovered during the meeting that the state would not proceed with the regulations, which were near the end of the approval process.
However, Young announced at a later meeting that those regulations were not dead yet.
On May 5, Weber confirmed that statement and gave more details on the effort by Seneca Meadows to insist that garbage trucks stick to the major highways. Weber said that if the landfill didn’t cooperate with the state, it could be put at risk for losing funding through a federal-state program called a Private Activity Bond Cap
However, Green, also a task force member, wanted answers regarding enforcement of the contract requirements.
“As they are coming into the Seneca Meadows, they will check at the entrance,” Green said. “What are the checks and balances to make sure they are doing that?”
Klink was very pleased with the announcement, which renewed his confidence in larger government, but said he too wanted to see how everything works out.
“You always have to have a certain amount of skepticism based on previous experience,” he said.
But both men agreed that Weber seemed knowledgeable about the situation and committed to the issue of truck traffic in the Finger Lakes.
“He made it clear he spoke to the governor, and he made it clear that they are committed to getting trash roads off the roads,” Klink said.
Meanwhile, the governor’s office will continue to review the truck traffic regulations until August, the month that will mark a year from when the adoption process began. Green wants to see that deadline pushed back two months, the length of the two extensions the DOT granted for the public comment portion.
If the state takes no action on the regulations, they will die. Klink also wanted to have the state extend the process so if they are not approved, they wouldn’t “have to start from scratch.”