Truck ban gathers momentum

SARANAC LAKE – A push to ban large trucks from downtown appears to be picking up steam.

Members of the village Board of Trustees on Monday asked village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans to draft a local law or resolution that would eliminate unnecessary truck and commercial vehicle traffic from sections of Main Street and Broadway. The board is expected to consider setting a public hearing on the issue at its Aug. 25 meeting.

The movement on the proposed truck ban came after representatives of the village’s Downtown Advisory Board and Healthy Infrastructure Advisory Board addressed the village board Monday. The two boards have separately recommended the village ban tractor-trailers, logging trucks and other large commercial vehicles from Main Street between LaPan Highway and Church Street, and from Broadway between Main Street and Bloomingdale Avenue. They want the village to detour big trucks onto the state highways, like Church Street and Bloomingdale Avenue. The ban wouldn’t apply to local deliveries.

Tim Fortune, who lives in Bloomingdale and owns a Main Street art gallery, said the noise from trucks rumbling through the downtown disrupts on-the-sidewalk conversation and affects his business on a daily basis.

“If there’s someone in my store, I can’t conduct business unless I get up, go over and shut my door,” Fortune said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I can’t stand outside my shop and talk to anyone about a painting in the window. I see kids (plugging their ears) every week. It’s just instinctive.”

Fortune said the noise that impacts downtown is amplified by a canyon effect, where the buildings are taller and closer to the road than on Church Street.

He said moving big trucks to the state highways would reduce traffic congestion and save village taxpayers money on road repairs and maintenance. Fortune noted that the state roads are built to different standards than village streets, so they can hold up better against the weight of heavier commercial vehicles.

“With the village improving the atmosphere downtown, code enforcement improving the situation, the Local Development Corporation working to provide funds for facade redevelopment, the (Hotel Saranac) coming in, it just seems like we’re all on this rise,” Fortune said. “This is not a small detail. This is very important.”

Two other Main Street business owners – Peter Wilson of Major Plowshares Army Navy and Marc Coleman of Ampersound music store – attended the meeting to show their support for the truck ban, although they didn’t speak.

Three other people spoke in favor of banning trucks downtown: Lindy Ellis, Marijke Ormel and Jamie Konkoski. Konkoski, chairwoman of the Healthy Infrastructure Advisory Board, reminded trustees that the village’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail Master Plan calls for the elimination of non-essential truck traffic from downtown. She said it would create a better environment for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The idea of a downtown truck ban has come up several times before, most recently in 2001. At the time, opponents countered that prohibiting trucks from downtown would mean less people visiting downtown businesses and would simply push the problem into other neighborhoods.

David Ryan said at Monday’s meeting that moving trucks to Church Street could spark concerns from residents of the DeChantal Apartments high-rise, where he lives. He said motorists often go right through the intersection of Church and Helen streets, where many seniors who live in the DeChantal walk.

“That population is very vulnerable if some truck came through that stop sign,” Ryan said.

Later in the meeting, Trustee Barbara Rice, who co-owns Rice Furniture on Main Street, said she “definitely” thinks this is an issue the village board should consider.

“Not only does it impact businesses but there is also a health and safety component that is also impacted, and that is significant for our community,” Rice said.

If large trucks are moved onto Church Street, Trustee Allie Pelletieri asked if the village could make improvements to its intersection with Helen Street, such as putting in flashing lights like at the school crossing on LaPan Highway. Village Manager John Sweeney said the village would have to approach the state Department of Transportation.

“I’m all for it,” Pelletieri said. He said the village’s resolution would have to spell out what trucks would be banned from downtown. “Do we regulate this by tonnage, by size, or do we just say any truck with a DOT number on it?”

Trustee Paul Van Cott said he’d work with Evans to draft a local law to present to the board at its next meeting.