Truckers decry Vancouver route changes

Port rejigged traffic patterns to produce one-way system

Truckers are objecting to recent route changes for container trucks in Vancouver, including the latest plan to steer them off Nanaimo Street to address neighbourhood traffic complaints.

Last June, the port closed the Clark Drive access to trucks destined for the port to ease traffic backups along Clark, predominantly the intersections at Hastings, Venables and First Avenue, three to four days a week.

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The port rejigged traffic patterns to produce a one-way system. Trucks enter at the McGill/Commissioner Street entrance and leave on Clark Drive. Some drivers tried to shave time off their trips by using Nanaimo Street. That sparked complaints from residents near Nanaimo, prompting the port and City of Vancouver to devise a 90-day pilot project starting Aug. 25, which will allow container trucks to use Major Road Network-authorized routes in the city, of which Nanaimo Street is not one.

The ports plan directs trucks travelling via the Knight Street corridor from Richmond/Delta to use the following Major Route Network to access the McGill/Commissioner Street entrance to the portClark Drive to Hastings Street; Hastings Street to Cassiar Street/Highway 1; Cassiar Street/Highway 1 to Bridgeway Street; Bridgeway Street to McGill Street. The City of Vancouver and the port will jointly monitor Nanaimo Street.

The longer, more circuitous route thats stemmed from closure of the Clark Drive access, and the subsequent decision to move container trucks off Nanaimo, adds anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to a truckers drive time, depending on traffic, according to Paul Uppal, service representative for the Vancouver Container Truckers Association CAW local 2006.

Route concerns will be among issues discussed at a truckers union general meeting this Sunday.

Truckers are dumbfounded because the ports got these initiatives about the environment and what have youtheyve got restrictions on what years of trucks can be on the port and all this sort of good stuff, yet theyre turning around and saying that its perfectly OK for them to send a truck and drive on the streets for an extra 20 minutes or an hour, Uppal said, adding, It totally affects [truckers] bottom dollarhow much their earning and how much time theyre spending out there.

Uppal, whose preference is the reopening of the Clark Drive access to the port, sympathizes with Nanaimo Street residents, but maintains truckers need to travel the most direct and most efficient route to the port thats available. If they cant take Nanaimo and must travel on Clark Drive before heading east on Hastings, it increases travel time.

Tony Benincasa, manager of logistics and operations for the port, estimates the redirected route is only 15 minutes longer at most.

[Streets] were heavily congested with container trucks trying to get into the port off Clark Drive. The rerouting to McGill recognizes the fact that the port has approximately five kilometres of roadway east to west [that] can quickly absorb those commercial vehicles coming into the port and [it] has demonstrated fluidity since late summer of last year where there has not been any cityside congestion of commercial vehicles destined for the port, he said. Its very important to understand that Clark Drive was never closed as an exit for commercial vehicles.

Louise Yako, president and CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association, which represents owners and managers, says people dont understand the important role of truckers in the economy. She said Nanaimo Street is a legal city truck route and if its the most direct way for truckers to get to McGill, they should be allowed to use it.

I recognize that were talking about a few minutes here, but if every community were to do something like this, were adding a few minutes on to every trip, which results in reduced productivity all aroundI totally empathize with the neighbours, but I think theres generally a lack of recognition about the importance of trucking and the fact that every truck movement really reflects the movement of our economy, support for our economy, and jobs.

Yako added trucks driving too quickly along Nanaimo is a matter of enforcement that needs to be addressed.

Benincasa said the rerouting of trucks is the best way to balance everyones interests and idling trucks backed up on Clark creates a larger environmental issue.

noconnor@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Naoibh

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