Texting out idling trucks around Peace Bridge

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

More light may be shed on just how big of a problem idling trucks are for the Lower West Side.

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Clean Air Coalition of WNY launched a program this week called Grow 716 that allows people to text a six-digit number whenever they see an idling heavy-duty engine truck or bus in the Lower West Side. The foundation provided the technology and the Clean Air Coalition will be responsible for the outreach campaign.

This is how it works: If you see an idling truck in the Lower West Side, text TRUCK to 877877.

Once data is collected over at least two weeks, the Clean Air Coalition will create a community report and present it to the Buffalo Common Council, state elected leaders, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Public Bridge Authority.

What’s the reason for this program?

State law prohibits heavy-duty trucks from idling for more than five minutes under normal circumstances.

Studies have tied the high asthma rates and other respiratory illnesses on the Lower West Side to diesel fumes coming from Peace Bridge traffic.

As a result, local elected leaders in June pushed the DEC to enforce the idling law more at the Peace Bridge.

Two weeks ago, Investigative Post published a story about how the DEC responded by conducting just two enforcement sweeps in five months at the Peace Bridge and wrote a total of seven pollution-related tickets —three for idling and four four for opacity violations—out of the 81 trucks inspected.

“We are guessing that we are going to have data that there are, in fact, trucks idling in the Lower West Side and not just six or seven of them,” said Erin Heaney, executive director of Clean Air Coalition.

Related news:

Jim Heaney explains Investigative Post’s transparency on Peace Bridge coverage

Dan Telvock expands on his coverage in a post on his GreenPost blog.