Saint John truck traffic exhausts patience: 'They think this is the Indy 500'

Some Saint John councillors are upset about the years it is taking to overhaul city truck routes — and their constituents are just as impatient.

270 trucks a day counted on a short, residential street on west side

According to Coun. Greg Norton, a 2014 traffic count showed 270 trucks per day used Harding Street, a residential street in west Saint John. (CBC)

Some Saint John councillors are upset about the length of time it is taking to overhaul city truck routes.

Councillors say people on Harding and Ready streets on the west side and Chesley Drive in the north end regularly complain about the transport trucks travelling past their homes. 

"There's common sense things that we need to do," John MacKenzie told fellow councillors. "There's places where we shouldn't have trucks. It's costing us millions of dollars to repair streets that are beat up by transport trucks."

Coun. Greg Norton, from the west side, echoed those views.

Saint John Councillor Greg Norton says the city needs to do something to help residents of Harding Street (CBC)
"We need to look at those truck routes," said Norton, who is particularly concerned about Harding Street, a short, residential road that saw more than 3,000 cars and 270 trucks a day during a count in 2014.  

"They can't even go outside because of issues with breathing," said Norton said. "There're complications with respiratory things, such as COPD. They need help. Council needs to help them."

Trucks from the nearby pulp mill and other city industries use this officially designated truck route.

Management of truck routes has been a hot-button issue for councillors for at least a decade. In September 2013, council was advised not to take any action to reroute trucks until a city-wide strategic plan for transportation could be completed.

On Monday, more than three years later, city staff gave council the same advice: don't revise truck routes until phases two and three of that transportation study are finished — something unlikely to happen until at least the end of 2018.

City hall turned to outside consultants to do the $600,000 transportation study, which was broken into three parts, over three budget years, to cushion the blow.

'They need help. Council needs to help them- Greg Norton, Saint John councillor

"We broke it into phases in order to make it affordable," said city manager Jeff Trail.

"In an ideal world, we'd have this done, it would have been paid for, and we'd have the plan done and we'd be using it to make decisions."

The study will help shape the city's strategic plan for transportation, which will also look at bicycle and walking trails and parking, among other issues.

A vote on funding for phase two of the study was postponed Monday to give city staff time to justify the costs and the need.

Longtime Harding Street resident Margo Cornfield said traffic on the street is particularly busy during morning and afternoon rush hours.

But late at night and in the early morning hours, the transport trucks arrive.

"That's when the tractor-trailers are the heaviest," Cornfield said in an interview. "They think this is the Indy 500 at times."

Neighbour Jody Mitchell said some trucks use loud engine brakes, despite a traffic sign warning them against it.

He recently signed a petition being circulated by another neighbour who wants the truck traffic removed.