Judge denies restraining order to lift truck ban on New York bridges

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New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman denied a temporary restraining order sought by a group of trucking and construction companies who argued that weight restrictions were an economic hardship, several media outlets reported Friday, Aug. 17. Feinman ruled that state authorities acted legally when imposing weight restrictions on heavy trucks that use the city’s Bronx-Long Island bridges, news agencies reported.

Feinman ruled the restrictions imposed by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) were neither unreasonable nor arbitrary steps to ensure that the bridge does not face additional structural damage due to the weight of trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds, according to news reports.

Legal representatives of the heavy trucking industry had argued Thursday, Aug. 16, in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to lift the newly imposed ban blocking heavy trucks from using the three TBTA Bronx-Long Island bridges. The case was adjourned until this morning after lawyers representing both the truckers and the TBTA spent six hours grilling a TBTA engineer about the rationale behind the ban.

The trucking industry consortium — which included companies involved in the transport of an array of widely used commodities such as fuel oil, gasoline, cement, crushed stone, sand and milk — had asked for an injunction to allow trucks weighing up to 105,000 pounds to cross the Throgs Neck and Triborough bridges. The Whitestone Bridge, which is undergoing extensive repairs, has been off-limits to heavy trucks while the work proceeds.

Until the Minneapolis bridge collapse on Aug. 2, trucks of this weight were allowed to cross both structures if they held the proper weight permits. In the wake of the bridge collapse, however, the TBTA imposed a ban on such weights. The new weight limit was set at 80,000 pounds.

The trucking industry claimed that it had been thrown into chaos as a result of the sudden ban and the confusion and inconsistencies that surrounded the implementation of the new regulation. The industry maintained that the ban was irrational because smaller trucks now would crowd the same roadways and bridges. They also argued that the bridges still would be exposed to the same total weight loads, but at all hours of the day, as opposed to late-night hours to which the heavy trucks were restricted.

As testimony of the confused nature of the new rules, the trucking industry showed that milk trucks weighing 100,000 pounds still were being permitted to cross the bridges at night with a special escort and maintaining a 10 mph speed. The truckers’ attorney, Brain Gardner, asked why a 100,000-pound milk truck was being allowed to cross when a 105,000-pound truck load of sand was not? He asked why the same rule used for the milk carriers wouldn’t be applied to other trucks, adding that the entire situation was nonsensical.

In addition to lifting the ban, the trucking industry also had asked that the TBTA immediately commence an emergency set of repairs to be done in 60 days on the Throgs Neck that would shore up areas on the bridge that have been deemed unsafe so that the heavy trucks could resume use of the bridge. The TBTA has maintained for more than three years that the Throgs Neck needed repairs, but the trucking industry said it has not made them.

The truckers maintained that banning the heavy trucks would cause economic, traffic and environmental mayhem to the New York Metropolitan area, and that it was uncalled for.