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As rest stops fill up, truckers ask when the tractor trailer ban will end?

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Despite a tractor trailer ban on several upstate thruways, several truckers are still being spotted on roads like the I-190. A jackknifed semi-trailer blocked the Niagara Thruway southbound at exit 3 earlier this morning. However, many are staying put and stops on both sides of the border continue to fill up.

Peace Bridge Administrative Supervisor Christopher Bonn said they are restricting trucks as courtesy to the New York State Thruway and department of transportation, but there are a few that are still crossing the border.

“There are trucks that are going to Niagara Street. So what we do is stop each and every truck heading in to the US because we do quiz them,” Bonn said. “If they have deliveries on Niagara Street, which 277 is the number, we allow those people to cross. And U.S. Customs has a lane open.”

Violators of the tractor trailer ban will face fines up to $450 , two points on their license and potential criminal charges.

But it may get much worse than that.  

Governor Andrew Cuomo says ignoring the ban will bring not just fines, but legal consequences.

“It won’t just be a traffic citation. Under vehicle traffic law 1212, it could be a crime. Under the penal law, there could be a crime under section 120 for reckless endangerment and assault.”

The weather has led to dozens of accidents so far. Most notably, a 21-vehicle accident yesterday afternoon that shutdown sections of the Thruway and I-90 near Batavia. The incident involved a tractor trailer, which should not have been on the road.

“We’re not asking tractor trailers to stay off the road. That is a legal ban. And the accident in Rochester happened because a tractor trailer violated the ban”

Cuomo said they will look in to using E-ZPass to monitor tractor trailer movement.

While they are not letting trucks through to the U.S. unless they are making deliveries to Niagara Street, Bonn said some are still finding ways to cross in to Canada.

“We don’t know how they get here. We don’t ask them how they got here. There are trucks coming through, so we are assuming they are coming off the interstate," Bonn said. "Some are probably coming from Niagara Street, also that have found a workaround. Besides that, we’re here to be a conveyance for the most part and we are open and running and cars are going freely both ways. We’re down to pavement in most areas.”

While it has been noted several tractor trailer drivers have ignored the ban over the past few days, many more have listened.

Bonn said the Ministry of Transport in Ontario has been very helpful. They set up four signs on the QEW. As you approach the bridge truck drivers will see the interstate in NY is closed and the Peace Bridge will not allow you to cross.

“Last time I checked, we had 175 trucks staying at the Flying J, which is a truck stop only one mile from here up the QEW. That was actually late (Wednesday) afternoon.”

At that very Flying J truck stop in Ft. Erie, Ontario, General Manager Bert Branchaud said there’s now a little over 100 drivers currently stationed, wondering when the ban will end. Some are looking for other routes to take.

“Anybody that can make it, or is going through the Toronto area… I know that Detroit is open,” said Branchaud. “Whoever can make it that way, they can. But right now I think one of the biggest things that they are doing is just holding tight. Most of the dispatchers are understanding.”

Stops on the American side of the border are filling up as well.

Ontario resident Gino Catalano said a stop along the 390 was so full a state trooper guided him and others to a school parking lot on Alleghany Road on Route 77. He’s heard about some drivers taking off to the Peace Bridge despite the ban.

“A lot of people are saying they’re going the back way. I talked to a few drivers after the snow (fell),” Catalano said. “They’re taking Route 33 in the backway by the airport and the ball diamond. And that brings you up under the exit… but I’m not going on that thruway. It ain’t worth the ticket or the extra mile”

He said he doesn’t understand why some drivers would put lives at risks by driving in dangerous conditions.

“I guess some people just get antsy or something. Aggravated,” he said. “They just want to get home probably because they are running out of food and money. They want to probably get home and be with their family.”

There currently is no set time for when the ban will end. The governor’s office said Tuesday it will last for the duration of the storm.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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