In the absence of injuries or the inability to move the vehicle, it is NOT necessary to call the police, nor is it necessary to remain in a travel lane – the shoulder will do just fine. Almost daily, it seems, we are reminded that the message has been missed by many drivers, but we will keep at it.
At the aforementioned meeting we also learned of a New York State DOT effort to mitigate the traffic effects of simple breakdowns – running out of gas, an overheated engine, a flat tire – by having special trucks dedicated to patrolling certain corridors with the ability to get these vehicles moving again. Known as H.E.L.P. trucks (Highway Emergency Local Patrol), these vehicles are equipped to deal with simple breakdown issues, and since they obviate the need to wait for city DOT tow trucks, get traffic moving again in a fraction of the time. Of course, this service is free to motorists.
Currently, H.E.L.P. trucks patrol segments of Interstate 95 and 678 in the Bronx and parts of Interstate 495 and 678 in Queens. Shortly after the meeting, we requested that NYSDOT Regional Director Sonia Pichardo examine the feasibility of adding H.E.L.P. trucks along the I-278 corridor from the Goethals Bridge to the RFK (Triborough) Bridge. This would, of course, include the Staten Island Expressway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the source of so much morning aggravation for commuters.
I’m happy to report that Director Pichardo has heard our call, for which we express enormous appreciation, and agrees that H.E.L.P. trucks would be a benefit in the I-278 corridor. She has directed her staff to evaluate the I-278 corridor to identify segments of this Interstate where we can achieve the greatest benefits with the HELP Program.
They will also undertake a review of the 2015 incident data from their Joint Traffic Management Center (JMTC), to assist in determining where the H.E.L.P. program would be most feasible for implementation.
Here’s some interesting facts about a program we didn’t know existed until this meeting:
- It is the mission of the NYS HELP program to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods by minimizing traffic congestion, and improving the operation of the highway system.
- The NYSDOT's H.E.L.P. program has grown into one of the nation's largest and most successful roadway service patrol programs.
- H.E.L.P. presently provides motorist assistance to vehicles traveling on 1485 miles of limited access interstate roadways, parkways, and expressways on Long Island, in New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, Buffalo, Rochester, and the Albany Capital District.
- Currently, 100 service trucks, including backup trucks, cover 25 distinct patrol areas, or beats.
- These trucks are operated by NYSDOT employees or contracted to other service providers. The program is coordinated and monitored by the Department's local Transportation Management Centers (TMCs).
Have we done it? Have we finally solved our morning commute problem? Of course not – I wish such a thing were possible. We have, however, done what we do here at Borough Hall every single day: made a small difference in the quality of life of Staten Islanders. But we also recognize that small differences become big differences if you can string enough of them together, and that has become our mantra. We keep chipping away at obstacles using every tool at our disposal, and we will keep doing so as long as we are blessed to work in this stately building.