In case you think that People in Ward Three are exaggerating about the trucks cutting through their residential streets to the Coke Plant, look at this picture above.
On April 12th, a North Street resident happened to be sitting at the light where Damon Road meets Route Nine. When the light turned green for traffic coming down from Route 91, he saw three big semis turn left onto Route Nine, one after another. Guessing where they were heading, he headed off in hot pursuit, going down Bridge Street and right onto Day Avenue. Then he got his camera out and caught these three trucks plus a fourth twin axle refrigerator truck pulling out of Lincoln Avenue and heading up North Street, which is a No Truck zone.
The bulk of the incidents may occur because of bad advice from the trucker’s Garmins. An experienced long haul operator who lives on Phillips Place came to a neighborhood meeting in December and briefed us on what probably happens in the cab of a tired long haul trucker when he is approaching the end of long odyssey that began in Illinois or South Carolina. When he nears the bottom of the ramp off of Route 91, maybe he sees the yellow flashing lights, but he is hearing the demanding voice coming out of his Garmin. (TURN LEFT!, TURN LEFT!) and he fails to see the truly tiny official COKE sign on the far side of the intersection. So he goes left, turning onto Bridge Street, and heads for the low clearance truck-eating bridge, and a date with a heavy-duty wrecking truck from Harold’s Garage? The flashing lights next to the bridge have cut down on the crashes, but the poor truckers stuck there by the bridge face a number of choices, from bad to very bad. The city has constructed a trap, a maze? of sorts. The following map is from the DPW.
The three trucks rolling down Lincoln Avenue were not breaking the law. There is no “NO TRUCKS” sign on the foot of the street, and it is still a legal “escape route” for trucks traveling west on Rte. 9. Trucks are forbidden on North Street, but there is no signage except opposite the Coke plant and at the foot of North where it meets Market Street. They deserve one of those mythical $300 tickets that we are supposed to be giving out, but the way things are now, they could plead entrapment. It was broad day light, these truck drivers knew what they were doing. They knew this was a short cut to the Coke plant, and they probably knew that Northampton police were all bark and no bite.
For me, I am getting fed up. When I saw this U-tube video I remembered “CONVOY” that hit the top of the Country and Western charts in 1975 by C.W. McCoy. United by no clear grievance but hatred of state cops and scales, these mythical truckers, communicating through their CB radios, formed a huge convoy of hundreds of trucks determined to take their rebellion “from coast to coast”. This real life CONVOY that came out of Lincoln and turned onto North Street probably had its genesis at a truck stop or a CB radio chat group. Someone says, “Hey I know a short cut to Coke, just follow me.” And so they did.
The only response of the city and the State DOT has been some ineffective signage at the intersection at the bottom of the I-91 ramp.
I drove both routes the other day, and this route via Lincoln is much shorter and avoids the push-button actuated red light when Damon Road crosses the bike trail, and the traffic light at Industrial Drive. It’s twice the length and takes more than double the time to drive it. So this is a tough problem to solve, since it bucks human nature and doing something about it has buffaloed many mayors and city councilors over the years. There definitely is something to be said for the city council revoking its status as a legal escape route, post “No Trucks” at both ends of the street, and have the police give out tickets. Jim Nash, the War Three councilor, has been meeting with our DPW and other city councilors, and evidently a meeting with Coke management is in the cards. Coke needs to do more and pay for better signage and perhaps a turnaround for truckers off Old Ferry Road. The State DPW ought to build a noise maker like Worcester did, and put it just upstream from the turnaround to deliver a noisy reminder that disaster is ahead. The security guard at the main gate could certainly take down truck numbers of scofflaws if it was put in his job description. He sees everyone that comes into the plant from the direction of Day Avenue and North Street. It’s a complicated problem involving the State DOT, our DPW, and Coca-Cola.
For other readings on the problem in KOTL, click the links below: