Dan Rattiner's Stories

Citizens Arise! North Fork Determined to Stop 3,000 Semi Trucks

Buried deep in a government report created by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, with advice from the Connecticut Department of Transportation Council and paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a plan that would create havoc on the North Fork of Long Island.

Under this plan, in a section called “Cross-Sound Enhancement Project,” more than 3,000 semi-tractor trailer trucks that currently use I-95 in Connecticut to get from Boston to New York would be diverted onto big ferryboats and taken across Long Island Sound to Orient. There, they’d continue for 40 miles down Route 25, the rural two-lane road that wends its way through Orient, East Marion, Greenport, Southold, Mattituck, Cutchogue, Laurel, Jamesport and Aquebogue to show up in Riverhead at the ramp entrance to the Long Island Expressway and the fast track into New York City.

All this is to help try to deal with the catastrophe of Connecticut’s I-95 superhighway, which connects Boston to the New York metropolitan area and suffers from an almost daily accumulation of jackknifed tractor trailers, exploding gas trucks and tipped-over payloaders that tie up things for miles.

Most people from these parts who take the ferry to Connecticut to go to Boston make it a point to take the long route up there—I-80 from New London to Worcester, and then the Massachusetts Turnpike to Boston. It’s more miles, the Turnpike has tolls, it takes longer, but that’s the way it is. Connecticut simply does not fund widening its more direct way, I-95, or fixing it or resurfacing it in any meaningful way since it was originally built 50 years ago. (I just Googled I-95 Connecticut. First item that comes up is SEMI-TRACTOR TRAILER HITS GARBAGE TRUCK ON I-95. It’s business as usual.) So go ahead and take it. But be prepared to sleep in your car.

Ah, but here’s that wonderful solution.

“One of many public benefits offered by this project is improved livability through reduction of traffic in highly congested urban centers,” says the U.S. Department of Transportation on its website. “Other benefits include emissions reductions, energy savings and landside transportation infrastructure maintenance savings.”

The project is part of “America’s Marine Highways Funding Program.” It’s a big document. The states were asked to make their recommendations. Connecticut’s contribution was this 3,000 semi-tractor trailer trucks diversion. It would greatly take the pressure off the overloaded I-95. Things would start to move again.

The villages of Orient, East Marion, Greenport, Southold, Mattituck, Cutchogue, Laurel, Jamesport and Aquebogue, all old 17th-century villages, are not taking this plan lying down, however, unless you want to consider Orient’s plan to create a protest by having some of the descendants of the original white settlers, King, Terry, Glover, Latham, Tuthill and Vail, lying across the Main Road as a roadblock.

As a matter of fact, the news of the existence of this plan first came to the attention of the good people of Orient when a pilgrim from New London came across the Sound to tell them of it. He then went off on horseback, sounding the alarm and alerting the townspeople of the old New England villages of East Marion, Greenport, Southold, Cutchogue, Laurel, Jamesport and Aquebogue of what was coming. Each of these communities now has a plan to stop this from happening or, if unsuccessful, at least slow it down and get their fair share of the spoils.

The people of East Marion plan, if the protest in Orient doesn’t stop them, to stand in the middle of the road with pitchforks right across from Truman Beach.

Greenport’s plan, if it gets past the protest and the pitchforks, is to stop the trucks at a toll booth, declare the contents of each truck as “salvage”—they have a long tradition in Greenport of dealing with shipwrecks and dividing up cargo that washes ashore before the wreckmaster shows up to take over. Greenport will charge a 10 percent tithe of all the goods brought through the tollbooth. If it’s 1,000 boxes of grapefruits, the residents of Greenport get 100; if it’s 200 I-beams for a skyscraper in New York City, two of them will be unloaded to strengthen up Greenport’s Meeting House, where the town fathers decide on the laws.

Southold, the biggest (and oldest) of the colonial towns, settled in 1640, plans to simply hijack the trucks and hold them for ransom. When the ransom is paid, in pounds, shillings and pence, the semi-tractor trailer trucks will be free to go, and head down to Mattituck.

Mattituck’s plan—if the trucks get through the protest, the pitchforks, the tithing and the hijackers—is simply to stop all the trucks so they can be “weighed,” and during the process, steal all the tires off the wheels. Some of them, the Mattituckers have been told, are 14-wheelers, and the men of Mattituck are well able to count—this is a lot of tires—after which the tireless trucks will be allowed to proceed out past the “weighing station” on their rims.

If the trucks get through to Cutchogue, past the protesters, the pitchforks, the hijackers, the tithing, the ransom and the rims, they will face the angry natives of the Cutchogue tribe, who will ride circles around the trucks and fire at the drivers. It will be an all-day affair, and at the end, the drivers of the trucks, those who have survived, will be invited to a great banquet surrounding a campfire for the night to celebrate that they have, through it all, gotten through. Drinks will be drunk, and the men in the morning sent along their way…to Laurel.

The men who run Laurel have devised a plan to divert all the incoming trucks coming down into the village off to the coastal village of New Suffolk, where they can be simply driven into the Atlantic Ocean and stacked up one upon the other as a well-stocked reef for fishermen. Laurel’s men will do the diversion with signage. The signs will read TRUCKS THIS WAY and have arrows. The semi-tractor trailer trucks will surely follow these routes.

In Jamesport, if there are any semi-tractor trailer trucks who have survived the protesters, the pitchforks, the hijackers, the tithing, the ransom the rims and the diversions, they will face the men of Jamesport who will tar and feather the remaining drivers and burn whatever is left.

The men of Aquebogue therefore believe they will not even see any trucks, and so have decided that if they do see one they will give this solitary truck driver an award consisting of a silver cup, a jeroboam of champagne, a laurel wreath to wear around his forehead and a full village escort of fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, marching band and bagpipers (from Scotland) all the way to the entry ramp of the Long Island Expressway, where, as the truck backfires and goes up the grade, all the residents of Aquebogue—all 15 of them—will cheer “Good luck,” set off fireworks and ring cowbells to herald this truck with its rims sparking, the driver tarred and feathered, the back on fire, pierced with arrows and bereft of all freight for the long hot glide on the eight-lane to the glistening towers of Manhattan.

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