Ithaca, N.Y. — Lawmakers and local officials have been pouring over a list of potential solutions for truck safety on Ithaca’s hills after the crash at Simeon’s Restaurant this June.
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On Tuesday, the Joint Work Group on Truck Safety — which includes representatives from the county, city, state and Department of Transportation — released their list of proposed ideas.
Some of the ideas — about signage on the hills — have already been implemented. Other ideas — including prohibiting trucks from driving on hills except for local deliveries — have been recommended against.
Still other proposals are listed as “under consideration” or “research ongoing.” These span from constructing of a “vehicle arresting crash attenuator(s)” to establishing a truck “pull off before downhill to the city” to redirecting trucks to approach the city along Route 13.
The group will be seeking input from the public on the ideas at a meeting Thursday Jan. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ithaca Town Hall.
“The recommendations are not set in stone … and additional feedback will be sought during the public meeting,” a press release states.
Here’s are the 23 ideas, grouped by category, with the notes from the working group:
5 ideas for better signage
1 – Cutting down trees and brush to improve the visibility of signs. Completed September 2014. (IMPLEMENTED)
2 — Evaluate existing signage and the condition of signage. Completed October 2014. (IMPLEMENTED)
3 — “Augment existing signage as needed: add grade distance information; use lower gear.”
16 existing signs need replacement; this task will be completed January 2015, according to the working group memo. Three new signs will be added on Route 34 and Route 13. (IMPLEMENTED)
4 — Officials considered adding additional truck/hill warning signs with flashers. (IMPLEMENTED)
5 — Radar speed signs, saying “YOUR SPEED IS XX”
“Speeding by trucks was not found to be an issue in the approaches to the city of Ithaca,” the report says. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
5 ideas for better technology
6 — Flashing messages for trucks about road conditions, traffic, incidents, information and technology infrastructure.
The group concluded that the technology isn’t ready right now.
“This idea may be reconsidered at a later date,” the report says. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
7 — A detection system to trigger “dynamic signs to enforce regulations” or provide warnings.
The infrastructure isn’t in place for this either, the group says. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
8 — A sensor in the road to trigger a red traffic light for heavy trucks at Cornell Street, Mitchell Street and Stewart Avenue.
The group decided that this was not an appropriate use of a traffic signal and that it would increase the likelihood of rear-end collisions. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
9 — “Automated truck information,” including license plate recognition, to notify law enforcement. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
10 — A range of truck mapping options, including on the Internet and with mobile apps, for trucks in Tompkins County. (RESEARCH ONGOING)
6 regulatory ideas
11 — Lower speed limits for trucks approaching the city.
These regulations are prohibited by the state, according to the working group. “Studies show that having different speeds on shared roads can be dangerous,” the report states. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
12 — A strictly enforced 20 mph speed limit for trucks coming downhill into the “Flats.”
This idea runs into the same problems as the one above. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
13 — Consider changes to the highway access system for New York State.
“Approaches to Ithaca don’t meet criteria for redesignation,” the report says. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
14 — Creating a truck “pull off,” possibly including a brake check and route safety information. (UNDER CONSIDERATION)
15 — Designate Route 79 as the principal arterial.
“There is no expectation that truck safety will be affected by the designation,” the report says. (NOT RECOMMENDED)
16 — Increase enforcement of truck laws and regulations. (RESEARCH ONGOING)
7 changes for infrastructure-routing
17 — Constructing a vehicle “crash attenutator(s) at appropriate locations.”
“Also known as a crash cushion, crash attenuator, or cowboy cushion,” this fix could help absorb the blow from a colliding vehicle.
They’re considering putting this in at the State St/Aurora St.
18 — Change traffic patterns to keep trucks from accessing “densely developed vulnerable areas.”
This strategy could work in concert with #17. A study will be conducted to determine if this idea makes sense; it will be funded by the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council; the NY Department of Transportation; and the city of Ithaca. (RESEARCH ONGOING)
19 — Redirecting trucks to approach the city along Route 13
“The committee had concerns about the impact on the Village of Dryden of sending trucks to Route 13,” the report says.
20 — “Prohibit trucks from driving on hills, except for local delivery”
The report notes that there may be political obstacles to this goal.
“The topic is politically difficult because all possible routes have residential land uses that are sensitive to truck route designations,” the report states.
21 — Prohibit trucks from driving on Route 79 southeast of Ithaca .
The same obstacles are listed as the ones for #20.
22 — Converting Eddy Street into a “truck deceleration ramp.”
23 — Creating a 4-lane circular highway around the city
This kind of bypass has been determined to be “cost prohibited,” the report says.