Driving down Rt 144 southbound into Coeymans, or northbound towards the Port of Coeymans, you may have noticed numerous work zone signs along the road and sometimes even flagmen. You may have also noticed that there are signs warning that exceeding the speed limit in work zones will result in doubled fines if convicted. On further investigation it seems that all of this is unlawful and very likely illegal, since neither Carver Companies nor the Port of Coeymans have the authority to post “work zone” or speed limit signs on a public roadway, and certainly do not have the authority to threaten motorists with doubled fines! And the town of Coeymans must enact ordinances, regulations or local laws to temporarily create work zones or speed limit restrictions [they haven’t].
Are these signs unlawful and illegal?
First of all, there is no public service or utility work going on in the area marked off by the signs. At least no construction or maintenance work being done by public authorities. The only construction going on is that of a private bridge over the Coeymans Creek, a bridge which itself is of dubious legality under the currently contested re-zoning in Coeymans. Furthermore, the bridge construction is not a public service nor is it a public works project, it’s private, and it cannot claim the authorities of law that apply to public works.
Since there are no public works projects, construction, maintenance, etc. going on in the area marked off by the signs and the threats, who is authorizing these signs and the “doubled fines” threat sign to be posted. Furthermore, Who is enforcing these restrictions and threats? in view of the fact that the only construction going on is private construction by Carver Laraway and Carver Companies?
And what is the work zone speed limit? Normally temporary reduced speed limits are imposed for workzones. The workzone speed limit is not posted!
Don’t those morons in Coeymans law enforcement, the Coeymans court, the Coeymans town board know about the DoT regulations and state law?
In fact, the entire so-called “work zone” is totally ignorant of state law and New York State Department of Transportation Engineering Instructions EI 08-030, incorporated into the update of chapter 16 of the Highway Design Manual (HDM). But Hey! doesn’t the town of Coeymans have a stellar police department, enlightened town justices, a brilliant highway department, a savvy code enforcement officer? Aren’t the taxpayers of the town of Coeymans paying these morons to know New York State Law and what to post, what not to post?
Furthermore, who’s the moron who thinks that anyone operating his or her vehicle through the work zone in excess of a work zone speed limit that isn’t even published is going to sit quietly when subjected to doubled fines when there is apparently no public works project going on and the only construction is a private construction project, the Carver Companies private bridge! Since when do our courts apply state law to private undertakings to enforce unlawful restrictions? The Carver Companies have no authority to impose speed limits or to enforce state laws, only duly constituted law enforcement has that authority and power.
And speaking of duly constituted law enforcement, where in hell are the Coeymans police hanging out these days? They’re certainly not serving and protecting along Rt 144 or anywhere around there. At best we see NY State Police stopping trucks but that’s just on a sporadic basis.
What we’d like to see is Coeymans police patrols enforcing the laws on the books like:
- Heavy trucks observing the officially and lawfully posted speed limits;
- Heavy trucks entering and leaving the Port of Coeymans and Carver Companies properties operating safely and courteously, in observance of traffic safety principles (like not pulling out in front of oncoming vehicles or waiting until faster traveling traffic passes before pulling out and having everyone jam on their brakes while the trucks meander along at 20 mph or slower)
- How about putting some operating lights on or ticketing the drivers when they operate their trucks with no headlights even in the rain;
- How about enforcing the law on clean, legible and if necessary lighted license plates (so that when they nearly kill us we can at least write down the license plate number in out last drops of blood);
- How about unmarked cars observing the trucks failing to keep right? Pick a lane and stay in it maybe? Maybe the right lane?
But since the town of Coeymans is in Carver Laraway’s pocket, it doesn’t seem likely that the Coeymans police are going to start enforcing the law in the case of the heavy trucks and careless truck drivers, not unless we start setting some fires under their asses. Maybe the New York State Police and the Albany County Sheriff Department should be called in to do the job the Coeymans police are either unable or unwilling to do.
Here are some notes for those of you who are interested in the basis for our opinions. They’re from the New York State DOT Engineering Instructions and from the NYS DOT Highway Design Manual. We also quote New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law §§ 1180(f) Work Area Speed Limit.
Based on the sections below, we believe that the work zone signs, the failure to post a work zone speed limit (thus failing to provide due process and proper notice of drivers), and the doubled-fines signs are all unlawful, if not illegal. What do you think?
The New York State Department of Transportation manuals define a work zone in the following terms:
“A Work Zone is the area of a highway with construction, maintenance, or utility work activities. It is typically marked with signs, channelizing devices, barriers, pavement markings, and/or work vehicles and extends from the first warning sign to the END ROAD WORK sign.”
The “highway” is a public roadway used by the public and the “construction, maintenance or utility work activities” are public works, not private. The official documents continue:
“SPEED CONTROL METHODS
Speed limit reductions in work zones are most effective when drivers perceive the need to slow down, (whether through noticeable geometric or work-related constraints on traffic flow) and when there is regular active police enforcement of the work zone speed limit. Arbitrary speed limit reductions erode motorist’s confidence in the need for reducing speed within a work zone. Traffic speed in work zones are generally lower, regardless of posted speed limit, when work zone conditions such as flagging, variable message signs, lane shifts, lane-width reduction, radar, and enforcement exist. Engineering, education/awareness, and enforcement measures are to be used to influence motorists, promote work zone awareness, and achieve safe work zone traffic speeds.” [emphasis provided]
Incorporating engineering measures into work zone designs will encourage drivers to safely negotiate work zones. Warning signs, advisory speeds, positive guidance, width restrictions, channelizing chicanes, and use of intelligent transportation system technologies are examples of engineering measures that can be used to slow traffic traveling through a work zone.”
There are very specific guidelines in the state DoT manuals on how flagmen should perform their functions; of course, you’d never see them doing that in Coeymans!
Engineering and education/awareness measures can help reduce speeds. However, active police enforcement is the most effective measure to encourage motorist’s compliance with posted regulatory speed limits and other traffic regulations within work zones. Under the 2005 Work Zone Safety Act Regulation, police services will be provided to the extent practicable within major active work zones. The need for police presence and/or enforcement should be determined as early as possible during the project design phase. Police enforcement needed for maintenance type work zones will be coordinated as early as possible with the police agency and the Regional Traffic and Maintenance Groups. All effected [sic] parties should meet prior to any active enforcement within a work zone.”
Again, it seems, Coeymans has fallen flat on their fat arses! Who is going to pay for these tax-payer supported law enforcement services when the construction is private?!? Has the town board of Coeymans met with Carver Laraway to negotiate reimbursement for enforcement services during Carver Companies’ construction projects? Now there’s a good question to ask at a Coeymans town board meeting if you want to watch them squirm!
And then we have the New York State law that is referred to in the “doubled fines” signs. But it should be obvious to our readers by now that posting that sign under the current circumstances is unlawful and illegal. Any town or village justice convicting and fining under these circumstances should be brought before the New York State disciplinary commission and disbarred!
Here’s what §§ 1180(f) Work Area Speed Limit has to say:
“NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1180(f) permits some municipalities not otherwise authorized to establish a reduced regulatory speed limit by ordinance, order, rule or regulation for construction or maintenance work areas.
Vehicle and Traffic § 1180. Basic rule and maximum limits. (a) No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.
Regarding construction sites § 1180 (f) reads:
“…when a lower maximum speed limit has been established, no person shall drive a vehicle through a highway construction or maintenance work area at a speed in excess of the posted work area speed limit. The agency having jurisdiction over the affected street or highway may establish work area speed limits which are less than the normally posted speed limits; provided, however, that such normally posted speed limit may exceed the work area speed limit by no more than twenty miles per hour; and provided further that no such work area speed limit may be established at less than twenty-five miles per hour.”
“Every person convicted of a violation of paragraph two of … subdivision (f)… of this section shall be punished as follows:
(i) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by not more than ten miles per hour, by a fine of not less than ninety nor more than three hundred dollars;” [Editor’s note: This is double the normal fines.]
But again, it must be clear that these provisions do not apply to private projects like Carver Companies’ bridge construction, unless the town of Coeymans has taken steps by temporary ordinance, order, rule or regulation to give Carver Companies special consideration in terms of a temporary work zone speed limit. But the town of Coeymans and the Coeymans town board have no authority to amend state Vehicle and Traffic law at their convenience to threaten motorists with unlawfully doubled fines!
Once again, the amateurs running the town of Coeymans may have set themselves up for more legal problems if any action is taken against drivers based on the above. Coeymans taxpayers, get ready to foot the bills for the lawsuits when they start coming through.
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