Ithaca, N.Y. — What can the federal government do to help local officials improve truck safety in the city of Ithaca?

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U.S. Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer appeared today at Ithaca’s City Hall with Mayor Svante Myrick to address that very topic.

Here’s a quick Q&A breakdown about what we learned from Schumer’s press conference:

1 – What can the federal government do to help?

First and foremost, Schumer said that federal engineers and traffic experts would be able to help Ithaca officials analyze and understand their options.

“The feds are really good at this stuff,” he said. “I have faith in them.”

But it wasn’t just that the federal government would help the Ithaca area understand their problems and pay for expensive studies to understand possible solutions.

Beyond this, Schumer said that the federal government would in fact be willing to help pay for the solutions themselves.

What would those solutions look like? Schumer referenced the 23 ideas released by the local working safety group on trucks — which included, among other options, erecting a crash barrier along the Commons. (You can read their full list of preliminary ideas here.)

2- Does that mean the local truck safety group is losing its say in the process?

Schumer stressed this point: Federal experts will work on the solutions with local officials — rather than just dictate the answers to them.

“They will not just come down from on high like Mount Olympus and throw down like thunder bolts,” Schumer said.

“They will work with our local officials … we’ll meld their safety expertise with (local officials’) knowledge of how the city works.”

3 – Why is this happening now?

Obviously, the most direct cause of Schumer’s efforts is the Simeon’s crash that killed pregnant young bartender Amanda Bush at Simeon’s in June 2014. The crash — and Bush — were directly referenced by name by the senator several times.

But Schumer emphasized that there were three accidents at the intersection of Route 79 and Route 96B. Only the one last June was fatal — but that, the senator stressed, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen again. (Read the history of truck safety in Ithaca here.)

“Truck accidents at this intersection are a persistent problem and we know sure as we’re here they’ll continue if nothing’s done,” Schumer said.

4 – How do local officials feel about Schumer’s announcement?

Mayor Myrick, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and Tompkins legislator Mike Lane are all members of the local working truck safety group.

All praised Schumer and spoke favorably of his efforts. “I feel better knowing that we have a partner like Senator Schumer,” Myrick said.

5 – Why did Schumer vote for the bill that repealed federal truck safety laws?

In response to a question from an Ithaca Voice reporter, Schumer said he strongly opposed Sen. Susan Collins’ amendment that led to the rollback of federal trucking guidelines.

Read more about that rollback here. Schumer said he strongly struck out against Collins’ repeal of the federal laws — and earned the ire of the trucking industry as a result — but had to vote for the federal budget to fund the government.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.