City Council holds Truck Route Strategy during monthly hearing

Published 4:28 pm Friday, November 18, 2022

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In response to concerns raised about traffic issues as new developments put more trucks on the city’s streets, City Council is eyeing strategies in a new plan to address the problems.

At the Wednesday, Nov.  16 meeting, Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes presented a City Truck Route Strategy focused on providing plans for truck restrictions and to help alleviate the increasing traffic issues in the city.

Prior to the presentation, Suffolk Meadows resident Thomas Rein spoke during the agenda speakers portion and thanked the council members for holding the strategy hearing.

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“I personally want to thank all of you for your consideration as to the need for a full review of the current Truck Traffic Route Strategy at tonight’s meeting and also for scheduling a public hearing on Dec. 7, 2022 regarding the impact these trucks are having on the safety, health and quality of life of our communities,” Rein said.

Rein also spoke about the approval on the tractor trailer parking lot in Northgate Commerce Park for 100 tractor trailers during the Planning Commission hearing held Nov. 15, the night before this meeting.

“I discussed with Planning Commission at length my documented concerns regarding the impact these tractor trailers are having on our communities all across Suffolk,” he said. “In the end, I was denied my sole request for more time. I wasn’t looking to ask them to deny the application, I was just asking for more time to review the information appropriately so I can make an informed decision about how I felt about it. That’s all I was asking for.”

Likewise, Rein also spoke about a tractor trailer accident that happened on U.S. 58 that same night.

“The entire roadway system in Suffolk came to a complete halt, not only inconveniencing thousands of Suffolk citizens for hours, but creating a chain reaction for multiple additional traffic accidents across the entire city and putting countless others at risk from the Chesapeake City Line to the North Carolina Border,” Rein said.

“In closing I ask that all of you take this review very seriously… with open minds and open hearts for the citizens of Suffolk. Give all of us the time to review the information and to stop making these types of decisions constantly that impact thousands of citizens of Suffolk in a vacuum,” he said. “What happens in a parking lot in the Northgate Commerce Park does have a significant impact on all the citizens of Suffolk regardless of where we live.”

Later in the hearing, Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes provided the council and the Suffolk citizens with the City Truck Route Strategy presentation.

“I wanted to share with you some information regarding how we’re focusing our strategies related to trucks, and where they should be and where they shouldn’t be,” Hughes said. “As you’re aware through different phone calls you’ve received through many years, we deal with trucks and where they should be and where they shouldn’t be throughout the city.”

Hughes said it is obvious the world is rapidly changing and that convenience is king.

“We’re seeing more trucks getting into different locations, near residential areas, the Port of Virginia seeing record volumes, we’re seeing new facilities coming into the city of Suffolk,” he said. “Those all have a collection to where we need to put a greater focus and revise our strategy related to how trucks are interacting with our roads, with our businesses, and then hopefully keep them away from our citizens and where they reside.”

Four strategy categories were listed during the presentation: signage, technology, communication and relationships, and ordinances.

The signage portion provided before and after slides that showed updated signs focused on providing a clearer visual for truck drivers and to enforce them to not drive through restricted areas.

“We’re continuing a few different sign strategies as well to enforce some of that behavior, not just in Northgate but also in some other parts of the city, ” Hughes said.

Technology focused on issues with GPS apps for trucks giving directions. A map showed that the app was taking trucks down Western Freeway, 217, and through Shoulders Hill instead of Western Freeway, 664, Portsmouth Boulevard and Nansemond Parkway. Hughes explained the work that needs to be done to try and fix these issues.

“Essentially what we need to do is scour as many sources on the internet looking for these restrictions that some of these GPS’s are potentially picking up and reporting from,” he told council. “Not all GPS systems are sending you this way. If you do the same similar search for ways or google, they send you down Nansemond Parkway, they send you down 664 because it’s the fastest way to be honest.”

It’s not a perfect system, Hughes said, adding that it’s going to take a lot of effort. But he went on to say city leaders are up for the challenge and that they do want to figure it out.

“We know it’s important to people’s quality of life,” he said. “We’ve invested heavily in these roads, that’s where we want the trucks to go. And so… we want to continue to be persistent and explore all these ins and outs to that.”

During the communication and relationships segment, Hughes spoke about how planning and community development and economic development will be working towards making communications with industrial developers. He focused on how conversions need to be had very early on about how trucks will be accessing their facilities.

“We want to make sure that that conversation happens at the very beginning of the stage,” he said. “We’re currently not doing that, and we want to catch every industrial developer and have them submit to us how they’re going to come into the property.”

Hughes said they want to approve it and make sure that they’re driving everyone down the right path.

“Hopefully muscle memory happens from that,” he said.

Finally, the ordinance section confirmed that there will be a motion to schedule a Dec. 7 public hearing for comment on truck restriction on Shoulders Hill Road from Bridge Road to Pughsville Road, on Dutchess Way, on Baron Boulevard and on Suffolk Meadows Boulevard.

Later in the meeting, a motion was approved to set the Dec. 7 hearing on a 7-0 vote. Councilman Timothy Johnson was absent during this hearing.