News Details - Legislature Adopts Road Preservation Law
Many months after it was first discussed and following two public hearings and several other opportunities for public input, the Legislature, by unanimous vote, adopted a County Road Preservation Law. The law amends the County Code to regulate certain temporary “high-frequency, high-impact truck traffic” that could cause damage to County roads (such as, but not limited to that related to gas drilling). To trigger the law’s system of posting, permitting and bonding, the legislation sets a threshold of more than 1,000 truck trips to and from a project site over the course of a project, involving trucks with a gross weight of more than 30 tons. Exempted from the law are agricultural operations; school buses; law enforcement, fire fighting, and military vehicles; and municipal vehicles engaging in road work on behalf of municipalities.
As in the past, much of the discussion focused on the law’s threshold—whether it should be set higher or lower—as well as whether local businesses could be adversely affected . Before the vote, ten local residents spoke in support of the law, many of them suggesting the specified limits be set lower. Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce president Jean McPheeters urged the law not be approved or that provisions be reconsidered to increase the load limits, saying it will impede development undertaken by the area’s major employers and will unintentionally harm local business.
Legislator Mike Lane proposed the threshold be increased to 1,250 trips, a measure that failed by a 5-10 vote. Legislator Will Burbank suggested an 800-trip limit, a proposal that failed for lack of a second. Legislator Frank Proto questioned whether an exemption could be incorporated to minimize the impact on local businesses. While there is no such provision, County Attorney Jonathan Wood said he believes pre-determination provisions could be incorporated regarding certain roads as part of the law’s implementation.
It was again stressed that the load limit simply triggers the point at which a developer needs to consult with Highway officials and not an automatic requirement to post a bond, with determination of the appropriate bonding and assessment of expected effects developed in discussion between the developer and Highway officials regarding a specific project. The law will take effect as of January 1, 2012—that delay to allow necessary procedures to be put into place.
Facilities and Infrastructure Chair Carol Chock thanked everyone who has been involved in helping to shape the law over the past eight months—staff, businesspeople, and members of the public who have provided input. She remarked, “It has been a very long haul.” Both Chock and Government Operations Chair Mike Lane observed that the extra development time, and the input received, have resulted in a much better law.