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Wrong way

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There is no doubt that driving on interstate highways can be hazardous when snowstorms occur.

But how much worse would it be for over-the-road truckers and motorists to use smaller, less-traveled roads during the same storms if the adjacent interstate highway was closed? This is what happened during the recent winter blast of snow, wind and cold that struck the north country.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered I-81 closed from Brewerton to Watertown due to the dangerous driving conditions. By Tuesday, the governor had extended this closure all the way north to the Canadian border, forcing hundreds of tractor-trailer trucks north- and southbound to detour to Route 11.

Of course, the heavy snowfall and high winds made driving challenging everywhere. But closing the safest north/south highway to keep people off the roadways made little sense.

With I-81 closed, truckers supplying grocery stores of the north country and bringing tons of goods from Canada into the United States were shunted to Route 11. And seeing that Route 11 (a two-lane road most of the stretch) isn’t as well lit as is I-81 (at least two lanes of traffic going in each direction), the safer road to travel in bad conditions would be I-81.

The truck traffic became ensnarled in Adams as the drivers attempted to safely navigate the hills in and out of town. Route 11 nearly became a parking lot.

The decision created more hazardous driving conditions on Route 11. This rural roadway isn’t designed to handle that much traffic especially in winter, so pushing more traffic onto it added problems.

Head-on collisions were much more likely to happen on Route 11. The northbound and southbound lanes of traffic are separated on I-81, so head-on accidents aren’t going to happen. But on Route 11, the only thing separating the one northbound lane from the single southbound lane are yellow stripes on the road itself —and they were buried in snow.

In addition, truckers not familiar with local roads would be more comfortable driving on I-81 since they know where to get on and off the highway. But traversing the many miles of Route 11 during a snowstorm can make drivers disoriented if they don’t know this portion of the north country as well as other sections. Getting lost in a blizzard is even more hazardous than is merely driving in the blizzard.

So can someone from the governor’s office explain how closing I-81 would be considered a safe option? Perhaps the criticism Gov. Cuomo received for closing the Thruway south of Albany for the first blast of winter in eastern New York convinced his staff that inconveniencing another part of the state would even things out.

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