More trucks roll through NY, NJ ports after Baltimore bridge collapse

Infrastructure Networks | News

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore caused a spike in the number of trucks rolling in and out of New York Harbor’s seaports, according to Port Authority data.

Baltimore’s port closed on March 26 after a cargo vessel struck one of the bridge’s support columns, causing the whole crossing to collapse. Cargo ships were unable to move in or out of the waterway until June 12, when the wreckage was cleared…

Clinton Andrews, director of Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Policy Research, said people closest to the ports are breathing “highly localized” particulate pollution, or unburned carbon that comes out of exhaust pipes and is too heavy to disperse into the atmosphere.

“An important dimension of this potential impact from the increased truck traffic is what you might call a microclimatic impact,” Andrews said. “In other words, more intense pollution levels directly along the streets that are bearing the brunt of the traffic and not much difference further away.”

That means, he said, pollution is staying on local streets where more trucks might drive through. Gaddy noted that thousands of trucks drive through local roads on any given day in Newark.

Increased exposure to particulate matter also increases the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, wheezing and cardiac problems for people with pre-existing conditions. Trucks also emit pollutants like nitrogen dioxide.

A January 2017 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found 1 in 4 children in Newark have asthma, which is three times the average rate of New Jersey as a whole. The EPA also reports asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism for school-aged children in Newark.

The Elizabeth City Council in 2019 passed an ordinance that prohibited vehicles weighing more than four tons from traveling through certain local streets in the town as a means to prevent isolated pollution, but Andrews said the measure is difficult to enforce.

“This is a problem that’s recognized and an enforcement mechanism is in place, and it just needs to be implemented regularly,” Andrews said.

Gothamist, July 4, 2024