New Interstate-80 eastbound truck scales at the Cordelia Junction in Solano County have made a dramatic difference for truckers and commuters in the three months since they opened, said transportation officials at a tour of the new facility on October 4. The success of the relocation and redesign demonstrates the necessity of a similar project on the westbound scales, said MTC Commissioner Jim Spering at the event.
The eastbound project, which was unveiled in July, was a response to major congestion issues at the previous scale site and a projected increase in traffic on the main truck route in the upcoming years. The old scales were located at the site of convergence for I-80, Insterstate-680 and Highway 12, which caused truck back-ups that often forced the scales to shut down. The new scales were moved about a half mile east of the I-80/I-680 interchange, and new “braided ramps” allow trucks to enter I-80 and 12 without crossing paths with cars or exiting vehicles.
MTC contributed $49.5 million in bridge toll funds to the project, which amounts to more than half of the $97.9 million pricetag. The Solano Transportation Authority (STA), Caltrans and CHP were also partners in the project, which was conceived in 2001.
“The I-80 corridor is critical to freight mobility, it’s a major commute corridor, it’s a link to the Bay Area,” said Spering, Solano County supervisor and STA board member. “The old scales contributed to the congestion. It was identified as one of the top issues for improving the I-80/680 connection.”
Truck weigh-ins and inspections are mandatory – and crucial, said CHP inspection facility Commander Mike Ferrell. Truck inspections not only protect infrastructure by preventing overweight vehicles from damaging roads, but also protect people.
“We’re here to save lives,” Ferrell said. “We’re here to prevent accidents and to prevent injuries, to keep the roads clear, and to keep people and goods moving along.” Inspectors assess drivers for impairment, monitor signs of terrorist intent and search for hazardous materials.
Ferrell explained that the previous truck scale facility was a relic of a long-gone era. “This place was built in ’58,” he said. “The freeway was not built for the traffic we have now, so the freeway expanded but the inspection facility didn’t.”
The finished product is the “largest, newest and most modern truck scale facility in the state of California,” Spering said. In addition to adding five efficient weigh-in-motion scales to the existing two static scales, the project replaced the original indoor facility – a shed-like structure – with a large inspection building that can also serve as an emergency resource center. The new inspection center’s 29,000 square feet dwarf the old facility’s 3,550 square feet. It has seven bays with pits that trucks roll over, allowing the vehicles to be inspected from underneath..
Perry Morrow, a truck driver who has been in the business for 16 years, said he appreciates the new facility’s spaciousness. “It’s state-of-the-art,” he said, as he stopped for an inspection on his way to drop off loads of salt in Oregon.
Although the new inspection system and facility are already in use, the project will be entirely complete in spring 2014. Still to come is the implementation of smart technology that will sort vehicles, read license plates and help detect hazardous materials. Because the new weighing and inspection system is more likely to catch mistakes and violations and less likely to shut down due to capacity overload, “there’s an incentive for [trucking] companies to get their act together and keep their act together,” Ferrell said. But the project’s success is already evident, Farrell said. “We know we’re preventing accidents,” he said. “I’ve seen tanks falling off vehicles and drivers coming in under the influence. We absolutely needed the additional capacity.”
That need will only increase in the near future: The number of trucks on the road during peak traffic hours is expected to more than double by 2035-2040, from 400 to 900. And the existing single peak hour will likely increase to six hours a day, according to Ferrell.
At the October 4 tour, Spering praised the joint effort that brought the project to fruition after a 12-year effort. “It was through the early commitments of the regional funds by MTC that the STA was able to advance the project,” Spering said. “This is an example of how Solano Transportation Authority’s partnership with Caltrans, CHP, California Transportation Commission and MTC helps to find creative solutions to our transportation needs.”
Spering said the same safety and efficiency concerns that inspired this project exist in the westbound direction. “We’re in the process of establishing a working group for westbound and we hope that we have the same success,” he said.