Putnam County Highway Commissioner Fred Pena told legislators and residents at the county’s Dec. 18 Physical Services Committee meeting that his proposal to consider rescinding the weight restriction on Peekskill Hollow Road in Putnam Valley is in the interest of public safety.
Residents, however, disagree.
The temporary 12-ton weight restriction was placed on Peekskill Hollow Road about a decade ago in response to concerns from residents and travelers that 18-wheelers using the road to get from Route 301 301 in Kent to Route 6 in Cortlandt were creating a hazard – and tearing up the road.
“We are continuing to examine every possible alternative,” Pena said last week.
“You have two major ridges that go through (town) and the only routes that you have are Oscawana (Lake Road) and Peekskill Hollow, so that’s something that’s going to have to be worked out and that’s something I can’t do on my own,” he said.
Putnam Valley Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio asked if a truck route is required within a municipality.
“Route 6 is all of, literally, 1 mile separated from Peekskill Hollow Road,” he said. “Can’t we direct the traffic through there and spare the one thing the Town of Putnam Valley has, which is its rural nature, from being abused by these 18wheelers?”
According to Andrew Negro of the county law department, while the county can impose weight restrictions on county roads, the ability to enact truck routes in town is under the purview of the town board.
Oliverio further stated that while Route 6 is a “major thoroughfare,” Peekskill Hollow Road is “barely a two-lane road” and not a proper route for any truck over the 12-ton limit.
“It’s one of the most rural and historic roads in the entire county,” he said. “That’s the only thing Putnam Valley has – we’re not a business area, we don’t have box stores… What we have is one of the most rural configurations than any other town and we want to protect that.”
However, Pena noted that Peekskill Hollow Road is still a better option for trucks than the back roads that blanket the town.
“When you look at what roads really need to have truck restrictions, you’ll find the smaller, local roads are the ones that are going to need those restrictions, and your Peekskill Hollow and Oscawana roads are you ways in and ways out,” he said.
Resident Victor Tishop, who has long advocated for truck restrictions on Peekskill Hollow Road, said trucks are already allowed on that road, as well as some others, for local deliveries. Designating Peekskill Hollow as an official truck route to allow through-traffic of 18-wheelers is irresponsible, he said.
“What the public demanded, and the weight restriction that was placed on Peekskill Hollow, was because of public safety and the physical nature of Peekskill Hollow Road,” he said. “It is not a designed truck route – the lanes are narrower than standard, there’s curves, limited sight distance, ups and downs…”
Pena, however, said the law that allows for weight restrictions was not written as a public safety law, but to prevent a roadway from being “materially injured.”
But Oliverio said that’s exactly what these trucks are doing.
“Eighteen-wheelers, as we know, they are the equivalent of 9,000 passenger cars going over,” he said. “That statistic came from the state. I didn’t create that. So that is going to kill our road and that’s why the curbing on the road is collapsing; the guardrails are bending over.”
Tishop accused Pena of “pushing” to make Peekskill Hollow Road a through-truck route.
“I’m pushing for a logical solution that doesn’t allow trucks to get lost on local roads and create more of a hazard, as you have as a result on Tinker Hill (Road),” responded Pena.
In August, a tanker-truck carrying 3,300 gallons of liquid asphalt crashed at the corner of Peekskill Hollow Road and Tinker Hill Road. According to the police report, the driver said he was headed to a job site located off Barger Street when the “lost his brakes.”
Pena speculated that when the driver of that tanker-truck came to Peekskill Hollow Road and was met with a weight restriction, GPS re-directed him onto Tinker Hill Road.
“So the weight restriction that was recommended – and is illegal and unauthorized and poorly thought-out – pushed and is going to continue to push truck traffic onto town roads that are more dangerous than Peekskill Hollow,” he said.
“I don’t have the solution to how to get trucks off Peekskill Hollow, but an arbitrary and poorly thought-out route for trucks… If it doesn’t push them back to Route 6, you’re going to end up having them go up Oscawana… they’re going to end up into tributaries farther north up to the Taconic.”
Tishop, however, said the incident on Tinker Hill Road was caused by the “illegal actions of one truck trying to evade weight restrictions.” To say that the weight restrictions on Peekskill Hollow Road caused that crash is “absurd,” he said.
Regardless of what caused the crash at Tinker Hill and Peekskill Hollow Road, Pena said the county – and the town – need to continue to study the road and come up with a solution.
“Where do you expect the trucks to go,” asked Pena. “You’re going to have to create a logical truck route to safely move trucks around Peekskill Hollow.”
No action was taken on the matter.