After hearing residents’ objections to a plan to impose weight limits on Twomey Avenue last week, Councilman John Dunleavy, chairman of the town board’s traffic safety committee, says he plans to propose a truck route for Riverhead Town that will require trucks to traverse only on state and county roads through the Town of Riverhead, except when making local deliveries or pickups.
Dunleavy had proposed an eight-ton weight limit for Twomey Avenue, which was the subject of a public hearing last Wednesday evening. But residents said adding another road to the list of town roads that are already weight-restricted in Riverhead does not go far enough.
Supervisor Sean Walter said during last week’s hearing he favors doing a traffic analysis to determine what an appropriate truck route would be.
But Dunleavy disagrees. “I don’t think we need to spend a lot of taxpayer money to have a traffic engineer tell us what the best route would be. The trucks should stay on state and county roads,” Dunleavy said. “Those are the roads built to handle that kind of traffic.”
Area residents, particularly those who live in Northville, near the United Riverhead Terminal facility, are urging the town to impose weight limits on all local roads. Northville Beach Civic Association president Neil Krupnick urged a town-wide ban on large truck traffic, which he said is beating up local road surfaces. “Anybody who drives on local roads knows how bad they are,” he said. “Our rural roads are not built to handle this kind of traffic,” Krupnick said, pointing out that local officials, including board members and Highway Superintendent George Woodson, have already acknowledged. Local intersections are not built to accommodate such large vehicles making turns, he said.
Krupnick singled out tanker trucks traveling to and from United Riverhead Terminal on Sound Shore Road.
He presented the board with a picture of a Metro tanker truck turning onto westbound Sound Avenue from Penny’s Road. The tanker is fully in the oncoming lane of traffic in order to negotiate the turn.
“Having trucks like this, filled with thousands of gallons of flammable liquid, travel on our narrow local roads, we’re just one accident away from a tragedy,” Krupnick said. “It’s a giant safety issue and affects the whole town.”
“We can’t restrict the truck traffic on Sound Shore Road,” Dunleavy said. “That’s local delivery.”
“It’s not local delivery,” Krupnick answered. “They are picking up oil to take all over the place. These roads are filled with walkers, jogger and bicyclists.”
“Those tanks have been up there since 1950. You’re trying to put someone out of business,” Dunleavy said.
“No, we’re not,” Krupnick countered. “We used to see mom-and-pop home heating oil trucks going in and out. Now we’re seeing massive 20- and 24-wheelers,” Krupnick said.
John Catsimatidis, owner of United Metro Energy and the founder and chairman of Red Apple Group, the holding company of United Refining Company, Gristedes Foods, Red Apple Supermarkets, and United Riverhead Terminal, spoke at last week’s hearing, threatening to pull the plug on additional projects worth “tens of millions of dollars” that he “had been considering.”
Among the projects that the company was planning, he said, was a pipeline connecting the United Riverhead Terminal facility in Northville with United Metro’s fuel facility in the Calverton Enterprise Park. That would take trucks off the road, he said. Another project that would also reduce truck traffic is to “fully connect” the EPCAL rail spur to his Calverton site.
“My concern is, before I authorize spending tens of millions of dollars aI want to just make sure the town does the right thing by everybody, not just by 12 people complaining about bad scenery,” he said, the remark drawing complaints from residents in the audience.
“I encourage you to go ahead and complete the traffic study,” Catsimatidis said. “Make sure safety is paramount but don’t unduly restrict truck traffic.”
The URT owner said he favored weight restrictions being put on Twomey Avenue and pledged the cooperation of his company’s drivers.
Dunleavy today said he was unswayed by Catsimatidis’ remarks. “He’s not going to bribe me with the promise of spending tens of millions of dollars in town,” he said.
The councilman said he had never before heard any talk of a proposed Northville-to-Calverton pipeline.
Residents have petitioned the board to adopt town-wide weight limits barring heavy truck traffic on all local roads, except local delivery. Northville Beach resident Mary Yarusso delivered a petition to the board last week with 175 signatures on it, all collected online.
Dunleavy said he will take up the proposed truck route with the traffic safety committee at its next meeting this Thursday morning. If there is consensus, he will bring the suggestion to the town board, he said.
Katie Blasl contributed reporting.