Saturday, November 29, 2008

US 20 in New York: Truck Protest in Skaneateles

Here is a news story about a truck protest, which took place on US Route 20 yesterday in Skaneateles, New York. US 20 is called Genesee Street in Skaneateles, and the city is on one of the Finger Lakes, west of Syracuse.

A video of the protest can be found here.

Parade of trucks draws big crowd
By Christopher Caskey / The Citizen Friday, November 28, 2008 11:44 PM EST

SKANEATELES - Hundreds of people lined Genesee Street in the village of Skaneateles early Friday afternoon to watch a parade. Some of them held signs, and some of them waved American flags. Many of them just stood on the sidewalk and gazed west, waiting to catch the first glimpse of the caravan.

The crowds descended upon Skaneateles to watch a parade of trucks rumble and honk along Route 20. The caravan was organized as a statement of protest against a proposed set of state regulations that would keep truckers from using certain rural, upstate routes as shortcuts.

Approximately 150 to 200 tractor trailers and diesel trucks drove in line from Waterloo through Skaneateles as part of the rally. The first trucks started rolling through the village at 12:45 p.m., and the parade lasted approximately 30 minutes.

The protest was staged on the same day as the kickoff for the Dickens Christmas, a village-wide festival that lasts through the holidays and is a popular event for both locals and out-of-towners.

Many of the spectators lining the street came in support of truckers, raising signs of encouragement and cheering as the drivers slowly ambled through town, one after another.

“It was a great sight to see when we came into the town,” Vincent Gramuglia, who has claimed to be one of the organizers, said after the rally. “I think it was a great success.”

Gramuglia is part of the Mohawk Valley Chapter of Truckers and Citizens United, the organization that staged the event. According to the group, the point of the rally was to protest regulations proposed by Governor David Paterson and the Department of Transportation to keep heavy trucks off of many rural roads.

The convoy proceeded along Route 20 for much of the way, though Route 20 is not restricted by the regulations. But many of the organizers have pointed to the village of Skaneateles as a symbol of anti-trucker sentiment.

Gramuglia clarified Friday that the organization does not have anything against the people of Skaneateles. It's the “small group of people” who are trying to dictate what goes on in the village, he said.

That “small group” is the Upstate New York Safety Coalition Task Force, a collection of regional residents and officials who rallied for the regulations. The coalition has contended that the trucks lessen the quality of life, wear down the region's infrastructure and create environmental hazards.

But truckers like Gramuglia say they are being unfairly targeted and that they have a right to use the public roads. The regulations would financially hurt the trucking industry, and that economic pain would pass onto consumers, Gramuglia said.

“We would like to try and sit down at a round table and and discuss this situation before it gets more out of hand,” said Gramuglia, who added that industry representatives are meeting with state officials next week in Albany to discuss the proposal.

David Card, of Skaneateles, also participated in the convoy. An owner of a trucking company himself, Card said it's time that people stop trying to take rights away from others.

People talk about keeping trucks on the Thruway, Card said. But if that happens, higher fuel costs and tolls will be more local and non-local companies can handle, he said.

“If we lose this, what's next?” asked Card, who said he knew of at least 25 or 30 local truckers who participated Friday. “These roads are paid for by people like myself.”

Spectators come to show support, concerns

While the day's main spectacle was the afternoon caravan, the streets were crowded by late morning. Some people formed clusters on corners and along sidewalks to claim a spot for watching the demonstration. Some meandered in and out of shops.

At noon, a crowd formed around the Sherwood Inn as the Dickens characters announced the start of the festival and sang Christmas carols.

Erica Leubaner, of Marietta, stood with a group of about 10 friends and family members to support the truckers' cause. As dairy farmers, Leubaner said her family depends on trucking in the area. Any rules that affect the trucking industry negatively will affect her family business in the same way, she said

Leubaner added that the first day of the Dickens festival was the perfect time to hold a rally.

“Any time people want to make a statement, they have to capitalize on a time when there's going to be a captive audience,” she said.

Skaneateles resident Jim Lanning was also there to support the truckers. He stood on the side of Genesee Street carrying a “Welcome” sign.

A truck driver himself, Lanning said local officials have been “harassing” local truckers for some time. This is ironic, he continued, considering all of the local merchants get their goods through commercial trucking.

“I think we can all get along together in harmony if we try,” Lanning said.

Not all the spectators were against the tighter restrictions, though. Skaneateles residents. J.D. and Darlene Lawson both raised signs imploring truckers to keep off routes 41 and 41 A.

The Lawsons live on Route 41, they said, and the trucks often come speeding down the road without much regard for the residents.

“That's a county road, not a state highway,” J.D. Lawson said.

He also said it was “disrespectful” of the trucking organization to hold the rally on the first day of the Dickens festival.

Skaneateles resident Bob Werner stood next to the road to watch the trucks. Events like these don't happen in the village every day, he said.

However, Werner said he understands the issues raised by local residents over the safety and environmental effects from heavy truck use in the area.

“Sometimes (the trucks) will tip over, and that can be a major concern,” Werner said.

Very few incidents, local officials say

Despite the large crowds and dissenting viewpoints, the trucks came and went with very few incidents. After the convoy passed through Skaneateles Police Chief Lloyd Perkins said that multiple New York State Police and Onondaga County Sheriff's officials were present in and around the village.

The truckers have a right to use the roads and a right to protest, Perkins said. The elevated force, he continued, was present to maintain public safety.

“I think it was very smooth,” sad Perkins. “I know that 99.9 percent of these truckers are great people.”

However, law enforcement did intervene a bit before the convoy reached Skaneateles. According to the state police, troopers in Auburn arrested John Cardinell, 69, of Weedsport and charged him with disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration.

Cardinell was one of the truckers in the convoy, according to the state police, though no police officials were available Friday evening for further comment.

State police in Auburn also gave out three other tickets when drivers stopped their rigs in the driving lanes and held up traffic.

After the event, Skaneateles Mayor Bob Green described the rally as a “peaceful” demonstration. Green said he hoped the increased foot traffic benefited local merchants and gave the village's annual holiday festivities some added publicity.

“I hope they feel like they accomplished something,” said Green, who noted that he thinks the truckers' issues should be taken up with officials in Albany, not Skaneateles.

“I do think their focus could have been better utilized finding solutions instead of spending a day and using fuel for a demonstration.”

An active participant in the Upstate New York Safety Coalition Task Force, Green said he expects the group to continue their efforts to restrict heavy truck traffic on rural, upstate routes.

In fact, coalition members met with officials in Albany two weeks ago to discuss the regulations, he said.

“After today's display, I think the coalition will become larger and louder,” Green said.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

US 20 in New York: Vintage Diner Relocated

Here’s a story from the Schenectady Daily Gazette covering the relocation of a vintage diner to a location on US Route 20 at Route 406 in Princetown, NY. (Princetown is just east of Schenectady, NY.) Route 20 is called the Western Turnpike in that area. (If you click on the link to the Daily Gazette article, you can find a picture of the diner.)

Vintage diner to be operated at new location on Route 20
By Justin Mason Gazette Reporter

Crews used an industrial crane to hoist the 38-foot-long and 17-foot-wide structure onto a foundation off Route 20 Wednesday morning. They used a bar on top and cables beneath to suspend the forlorn-looking silver diner several feet in the air before effortlessly placing it on a pair of steel I-beams set into the concrete.

“It was just like a toy,” said owner Tom Ketchum, surveying the nearly 23-ton diner on its new base.

The diner car sat on blocks near Ketchum’s autobody repair shop for more than a year after it was hauled 630 miles from a warehouse in Michigan. Built by the Mountain View Diner Co. factory in New Jersey during the mid-1950s, the restaurant once served Champagne, Ill., where it was one of the early pioneers to sell Col. Harland Sanders’ legendary fried chicken.

Now, with the diner secured and all the necessary town approvals in hand, Ketchum and his wife Sally plan to continue the arduous task of restoring the eatery to its former grandeur. By next spring, they intend to open a full-service restaurant that will include authentic 1950s-era equipment and furnishings the couple has collected from across the nation.

This includes an authentic M-100 Seaburg jukebox Ketchum found in Detroit. He spent the past year restoring the player so it spins vinyl 45s as if it were new.

And consider the stainless steel foyer that once greeted customers when the diner operated in Champagne. Ketchum tracked down the dismantled pieces that had sat in storage since the last incarnation of the diner closed in 2002.

They acquired a pie case and ice cream parlor from the American Diner Museum in Rhode Island. Everything in the diner will be from the period when it flourished, Ketchum said.

“Everything in there will be real 1950s, not make-believe 1950s,” he said. “I sat on the Internet every day looking for what I wanted and what I could afford to buy.”

Ketchum even managed to track down the massive neon cowboy sign that stood outside the diner when it was first opened in 1956. When word about the diner’s revival spread, they were contacted by a former patron of the restaurant living in California, who offered the sign to them.

Ketchum said the woman had frequented the diner during college and purchased the sign as a memento when its original owners closed it in 1976. She initially intended to hang the sign in her West Coast art studio, but ended up stowing it in her mother’s garage in Illinois after learning it wouldn’t fit.

The authentic sign was oddly one of the holdups the Ketchums faced when seeking approvals from the Princetown Planning Commission. The 10-foot-by-8-foot sign far exceeded the allowed size in the town code.

Town officials were also slightly bewildered by the nature of the diner project. After all, Ketchum explained, it’s not often someone comes in with a project that includes a diner that’s already built.

“There are no plans for it,” he said. “This is an existing building.”

But after several months of meetings the town approved both the project and a zoning variance this fall, allowing the Ketchums to dig the foundation, move the diner and keep the sign. Now, he plans to complete an addition on the rear of the structure and finish renovating the original, including the neon sign, which he’s looking for help to restore.

The Ketchums have made a good deal of progress since the diner arrived last year. He’s restored some sections of the interior and all of the booths are now being reupholstered. Ketchum is also painstakingly removing rotted sections of wood beneath the stainless steel exterior.

“We didn’t dare do anything else until the diner was set,” he said.

Ketchum said moving the diner to its foundation is a large step in the right direction and one people are already starting to notice. Prior to the move, he said many people didn’t even realize he was doing work to restore the restaurant.

Several hours after the move, contractor Bob Frost poked his head in the diner to compliment the Ketchums on their progress. Earlier this month, he helped excavate for the foundation.

“It looks a lot better just sitting on the foundation,” he said.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

US 20 In Ohio: The Dunham Tavern and Museum in Cleveland

Located on Euclid Avenue (US Route 20) in Cleveland, on the stretch between University Circle and downtown Cleveland, is the Dunham Tavern and Museum . It is the oldest building in Cleveland.

Built in 1824, it is a clapboard building that served as a stop along a stagecoach route between Detroit MI and Buffalo NY. At the time, the stretch of US 20, (now Euclid Avenue) midway between Doan's Corners (East 105th Street) and Public Square where Dunham’s was located was also known as part of the “Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Road.” The modern day Route 20 follows that same stagecoach route.

Dunham Tavern Postcard
Dunham Tavern was the home of Rufus and Jane Pratt Dunham, who were early settlers to the Western Reserve. As their home was along the stagecoach route, they decided to make their home a tavern, and it remained this way until 1857.

In the 1930s, the house was a studio for artists and printmakers, and later the Society of Collectors worked to restore the house, opening it to the public in 1941. It was named a Cleveland Landmark in 1973, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 1974.

Today, the museum is filled with many period antiques, and the Heritage Trail and gardens also make for a nice outdoor stroll and a peaceful respite from the surrounding industrial and urban neighborhood.

Dunham Tavern and Museum is located at 6709 Euclid Avenue (US Route 20) , in Cleveland, Ohio. More information can be found at the website for Dunham Tavern and Museum. .

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

US 20 in Idaho: Craters of the Moon, Idaho Falls

To the left of the satellite photo the large basalt area of the Craters of the Moon National Park & Preserve are visible.
Idaho Falls is in the right of the photo.

After US Route 20 leaves Wyoming and the western end of Yellowstone National Park, it takes a southwestward trek through Idaho. The first major city that US Route 20 encounters after leaving Wyoming is Idaho Falls, Idaho. As US 20 approaches Idaho Falls from the north, it carries the names Rigby Highway. The City of Idaho Falls is the largest city in eastern Idaho, and the fourth largest city in the state. It serves as the county seat of Bonneville County. The city gets its name from the rapids and waterfalls on the Snake River.

According to Wikipedia:

“What became Idaho Falls was the site of Taylor’s Crossing, a timber frame bridge built across the Snake River. The bridge was built by Matt Taylor, a freighter, who, in 1865, built a toll bridge across a narrow black basaltic gorge of the river that succeeded a ferry nine miles upstream by a few years. Taylor’s bridge served the new tide of westward migration and travel in the region that followed the military suppression of Shoshone resistance at the Bear River Massacre near Preston, Idaho in 1863. The bridge improved travel for settlers moving north and west and for miners, freighters, and others seeking riches in the gold fields of central Idaho and western Montana. “

As US Route 20 turns west heading out of Idaho Falls, the name changes to West Broadway Street, and even father west, it becomes the West Arco Highway. As the road turns southwest of Arco, US20 runs concurrently with US 26 and US 93. Along this stretch of US20, and in the Snake River Plain, is the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve.

This monument and preserve is one of the best preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States. The landscape contains volcanic features including volcanic rifts, cinder cones, deep cracks, spatter cones, shield volcanoes and lava tubes.

The Monument was originally established on May 2, 1924, and in November 2000, the monument boundaries were expanded by President William J. Clinton by Presidential proclamation. It was officially designated as Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in August 2002.

According to Wikipedia:

"The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles (1,036 km2) of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles (2,893 km2). All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet (240 m). There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features."

Further information on Idaho Falls and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve can be found here:

The City of Idaho Falls
Wikipedia: Idaho Falls, Idaho

National Park Service, Craters of the Moon
Bureau of Land Management, Craters of the Moon
Wikipedia, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.