Ordinance on Truck Traffic Restriction approved by City Council members
Published 9:31 pm Thursday, December 8, 2022
City Council adopted an ordinance to restrict truck traffic on Baron Boulevard, Dutchess Way, Shoulders Hill Road and Suffolk Meadows Boulevard during its Wednesday, Dec. 7 meeting.
Approval of this ordinance follows recent issues of traffic build up and trucks impeding neighborhoods, such as Suffolk Meadows.
Suffolk Meadows resident Thomas Rein, Lake Cahoon resident Ann Harris and Suffolk resident Chris Dove spoke in support of passing of the ordinance.
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“I met with many of you personally to review my concerns and I sincerely appreciate the time you have taken with me towards a better understanding on both of our ends,” Rein said. “I know that many of you have expressed the same feelings and thoughts that I just said right now. I encourage each of you to approve this amendment, which I feel is necessary to protect the safety and the wellbeing of the citizens of Suffolk moving forward.”
Harris spoke in support of both Rein and the ordinance, calling it a positive step in the effort to correct issues surrounding the NorthGate Commerce Park.
“Many of us here aren’t the ones dealing with these problems everyday in that area, but we support him in his efforts as he brings to light the kind of unforeseen problems that can happen with this mix of residential and warehouse development,” Harris said. “The situation surrounding NorthGate is an example of how road and traffic conditions can change very quickly, and it’s also an example of what so many of us closer to Central Suffolk are worried about happening around here.”
She added that she appreciates the city’s leadership taking these concerns seriously and encouraged a “yes” vote on amending the code to restrict the truck traffic on these roads.
Dove also spoke in support of the ordinance, but also his concern of the restriction not specifying on which trucks are not allowed.
“I came today in a truck, passed another truck delivering packages,” Dove said. “It was a big brown truck, and they do that regularly. There’s a lot of different type trucks.”
He said he noticed the ordinance doesn’t specify types of trucks.
“I think that you need to go ahead and look a little bit deeper and evaluate what types of trucks that are causing the problem,” he said. “Regarding all semi-trucks, 18-wheelers going through residential neighborhoods and using roads that are not designed for their use.”
Suffolk Director of Public Works Robert Lewis addressed the issue of truck specifications and the Virginia law to Councilman Roger Fawcett.
“We followed the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia by statute defines a truck as any vehicle that’s 7,500 pounds and that’s one of the reasons why you noticed we just recently created a new highway sign that shows both the box truck and the tractor trailer,” Lewis told Fawcett.
Lewis said the guidelines under presented to council, the recommendation to prohibit trucks, actually does not give the city the ability to just say “only tractor trailers.”
“Now obviously if we have a truck, a UPS truck, a FedEx truck, even an Amazon truck that’s in the neighborhood delivering, that’s certainly within the requirements of the voidance that is liable,” Lewis said.
Councilman Timothy Johnson spoke on the importance of enforcing the restriction and making truck drivers aware of them.
“Not only do we have to do this, but we have to put enforcement in place to make it work,” Johnson said. “Hopefully the signs will continue to come to all these areas, but if we don’t get the word out to the truckers that we are enforcing this, and that means putting fines on these trucks.”
He said in his borough alone in those last 10 days, it’s been a nightmare.
“Everybody knows it is,” he said. “I just want to make sure this is going to be good for this. I want people to understand that we got to enforce it.”
Lewis discussed plans on providing updates to existing signage.
“Our plan is to go through in all of the existing signage to bring it up to date to new standards,” he said. “Additionally, once council finishes their action tonight with approval, we’re going to create new maps. We’re going to distribute those in many, many ways, we’re going to work with Economic Development Department,
Lewis said they’re going to figure out how to get this out to the mapping companies so hopefully it will start showing up quickly on the electronic mapping that many trucks use.
“We’ve already addressed it with Amazon, but not every truck follows that,” Lewis explained. “You got Waze and Google and all of those, and we’re trying to figure out how to get out there and reach them and get that to them very quickly.”
Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett expressed his gratitude to the public for their work and commented on enforcing fines to encourage the ordinance.
“I think it’s a great tool that we have in place, and I cannot thank everyone enough for their patience and the time that they have put into this, to bring this forward to council for approval,” he said.
“I know that Amazon, we’re still working with them,” he said. “They’re still working with the truckers, letting them know about the restriction, so they will understand they are not supposed to be going in those areas.”
Once in place, if the new restrictions are not followed, Bennett said then the city will have to consider some type of enforcement with fines
“Not $25 or $30 fines, but something that will get their attention that this is an ordinance that has some teeth in it and we’re not taking this for granted,” he said.
Finally, Mayor Mike Duman spoke on the positivity of the ordinance and praised the Public Works Department for its effort.
“Obviously, this is a step in the right direction adding some other critical areas,” Duman said. “I noticed a month or so, the concern and effort that public works have been making and I want to commend them in enlarging the signs, placing them in more strategic positions. The signs need to be in an area where there is enough notice for that trucker before they get on top of it. And I think we’re heading in the right direction. It’s a small piece, but it’s a piece of addressing the issue.”
The ordinance was approved on a unanimous 8-0 vote that drew applause from the audience.