The town of Harford is planning to pass a local law regulating high frequency truck traffic on town roads, instead redirecting truck transit toward county and state-owned and maintained roadways.
High frequency truck traffic is described by the law as individual vehicles or groups of related vehicles that have three or more axles, which traverse or travel a combined 100 miles or more of town roads or other town property during any five consecutive days. The only exceptions to this law include vehicles from county or local government departments and utility company trucks.
The law also designates a viable route for high frequency truck traffic consisting of state and county-owned highways within the town.
According to the law, truck routes seeking exemptions can apply for a permit or road use agreement issued by the town board. Permit enforcement would be managed by local law enforcement agencies and state police.
Before that can happen, the town was instructed by the Cortland County Planning Board during its July meeting to make revisions to the law, as well as expand permitting and enforcement authorities to town and county highway officials, and also communicate with the New York Department of Transportation (DOT) for guidance on signage and enforcement. The law will be subject to approval from the county planning board until said revisions have cleared the board in a future meeting.
Part of the planning board recommendation includes communicating with DOT and the county highway department on how to create these alternate trucking routes that don’t go through the town.
“We are recommending that signs be installed along major highways entering the town and that the town gets permission from the county highway department and DOT on those signs,” said Alex Schultz, a planner with the county planning department.
Schultz said the board is also recommending expanded permitting and enforcement.
“We are asking the town to consider allowing enforcement authority to the county highway department, as well as the enforcement of the proposed local law to be coordinated and negotiated with agencies of Cortland County and New York state so they understand the law exists,” Schultz said. “County and town highway superintendents are not given any authority. A lot of authority is given to the town board. It is recommended that the town and county highway departments have a larger role in the permitting process because they have more knowledge of maintaining roads.”
Those who receive a permit will be responsible for damages or spills harmful to local roads, according to the local law.
The law could have been inspired by incidents on town roads.
“They have had a few instances where one of the roads was destroyed by a developer and they had no legs to stand on and I think that is what instigated this law,” said Trisha Jesset, the County Director of Planning. “I think they are mainly concerned about specific utilities like solar and electric utilities or in some cases extreme logging. Sometimes they don’t have it within their budget to repair these roads that are damaged pretty badly from this heavy traffic.”
Jesset added issues like these are shared by several local municipalities.
“The town roads were just not originally designed for the kind of traffic that’s on them these days,” she said.
Although members of the planning board approved of the town’s move to secure local roads, some remained skeptical about the ordinance’s enforcement and reach.
“I hope the town has a good attorney. I think they are going to get sued right out of the gate,” said County Legislature Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) who is also a member of the planning board. “They are going to have loggers say ‘I am taking the logs out of Harford and I am going down to Pennsylvania.’”