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NYC Proposes $18 Million for Blue Highway Deliveries

The plan would utilize the city’s waterways to help reduce truck traffic and pollution caused by idling vehicles. The DOT estimated that between January 2020 and September 2021 truck traffic across the East River increased by 50 percent.

(TNS) — Freight delivery by truck has taken its toll on New York City's neighborhoods, but Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $38 million start to changing that on Wednesday.

Trucks, which became the primary source of local delivery in the latter half of the 20th century, up the wear and tear on city roads, up traffic, and can cause pollution when idling.

The plan de Blasio announced would seek to shift that trend away from the city's roads to its rails system and, particularly, its waterways in what the outgoing mayor is calling "blue highways."

"For centuries, maritime freight was the core of New York City's economy. Now, it's time to re-engage the blue highway that can make deliveries safer, faster,and more sustainable," he said.

"This report charts a real path forward for the future of a greener local economy — all while creating jobs and reducing traffic and pollution."

On Staten Island, the new report points to the success of the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge connection between the Island and New Jersey that moves some of the city's municipal solid waste. It also supports the Global Container Terminal New York, which is located near the Goethals Bridge and is the state's largest container terminal.

According to the report, the lift bridge is the only of its kind in the city that can support certain trains, and has helped to reduce truck traffic on the Staten Island Expressway. The bridge can only be lowered twice for two 15-minute periods per day, under federal law.

In the city's plan, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and bridge operators proposed modernizing the bridge, and the city wants to expand its use of rail freight in other parts of the city.

Of the plan's $38 million, $18 million is for the "blue highways" program, a joint effort between the city Department of Transportation and NYCEDC to spur private investments in marine vessels to transport goods around the city.

Delivery companies like DHL and UPS utilize small vessels on waterways and electric ground vehicles in Europe to make some deliveries, particularly over their final miles.

Vice President of State Government & Public Affairs at UPS Alex Carrion joined de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman for their afternoon press briefing announcing the plan on the West Side of Manhattan.

"We are open to exploring all modes of transportation possibilities, including our waterways, to compliment our urban operating plan, and minimize additional delivery vehicles needed for future shipping demands," he said. "We hope to bring that technology from Europe and utilize it in the U.S. and right here in New York City."

The new system would utilize the city's existing marine facilities, including docks used by New York Waterways. The group had their press conference in front of one of that company's ferries, which will moonlight for freight use, according to a city media release.

DOT estimates that between January 2020 and September 2021 truck traffic over the city's East River crossings, like the Manhattan Bridge, had increased 50 percent.

"As our demand for freight continues to increase, we cannot continue the historic mistake of relying on more oversized and polluting diesel trucks to handle the load," Gutman said. "They destroy our infrastructure, damage the public health and quality of life in our neighborhoods, clog our already overcrowded streets and hasten climate change. We must change course."

(c)2021 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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