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Sgt. Jeff Stahl, top left, supervisor of the New York State Police’s Troop E Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit, speaks about the challenges of policing truck traffic, during a meeting of the Upstate Citizens Task Force Thursday in Aurora. Sam Tenney / The Citizen

AURORA — The Upstate Safety Task Force, a local coalition, is brainstorming ways to enforce state Department of Transportation initiatives intended to reduce large through-truck traffic on several Finger Lakes region roadways.

The task force met Thursday in Aurora with the New York State Police and the Cayuga County sheriff to discuss ways for law enforcement agencies on the state, county and local levels to cooperate and work toward curbing large through-truck traffic that Finger Lakes residents say is dangerous and bad for the environment.

One of the truck traffic-reducing initiatives, listed in a press release on Gov. David Paterson’s website Tuesday, is to continue to increase the number of truck inspections to ensure trucks traveling on the several identified Finger Lakes highways are within weight and length limits.

Truck traffic on these highways has already decreased, according to the press release, and members of the task force agreed.

“I do think we’re seeing a small reduction in the number of trucks,” said task force president Barbara Clary.

The drop in truck traffic is a good start, but the task force wants to enforce truck weight and length limits in the Finger Lakes region.

“How are we going to coordinate and really get some law enforcement in this region?” Clary asked.

State police Sgt. Jeffrey Stahl, commercial vehicle enforcement (CVE) unit supervisor, explained that state police officers must be federally trained – often out of state – in order to be certified to inspect semitrailers. Even hazardous material training is a part of the process, as some large trucks and tankers carry potentially dangerous substances.

Once a trooper is trained, it is expected they will use this training in a full-time job capacity, and if they discontinue regular training, they can lose the qualifications, Stahl said.

The discussion turned to funding. Stahl said in a time of tough budgets, few law enforcement agencies have the funding and manpower needed to have fulltime CVE officers on staff, especially when a basic semitrailer inspection could take more than an hour.

“It would boil down to money,” Stahl said.

Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould chimed in, saying cooperation among state, county and local law enforcement is currently better than ever, but that a lack of staff and money could hinder the task force’s goals.

“I think it all goes back to the manpower and the money,” Gould said. “Even if we were given a grant for every vehicle in the world, we wouldn’t have the manpower to do this.”

Gould added that he is not criticizing the governor’s office, but public safety must come first.

One of the major themes of the meeting was the desire to continue to coordinate efforts to curb truck traffic. The task force, area law enforcement representatives, and local, county and state government representatives all agreed the most important thing is to stick together and keep pushing toward their goal.

“To be effective, it has to be a region-wide program,” said Chuck Murphy, legislative aide to state Sen. John DeFrancisco. “You have to coordinate.”

Daniel Young, Central New York regional representative from Gov. Paterson’s office, urged the group to keep reaching out with its message.

“The key is going to be communication,” he said. “This group is going to have to continue ... let’s keep this momentum going.”

Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or kelly.voll@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.

 

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