Re-Published From Charleston Daily Mail

Friday August 20, 2004

Editor's Note: Interest is high in the area regarding the placement of new weight limits. This is additional information regarding the issue from the Daily Mail:

Coal haulers aren't the only truckers benefiting from the 2003 law that increased vehicle weight limits on West Virginia roads. They also aren't the only ones getting tickets for driving overweight vehicles.

The state Division of Highways has begun to increase the limits on all state and federal routes, not including interstates, to 80,000 pounds. Many of these roads had been posted for between 60,000 and 70,000 pounds.

Lawmakers called for the increases when they created the Coal Resource Transportation System, 2,003 miles of roads in 15 southern counties where coal trucks can haul up to 120,000 pounds.

But with these heavier limits comes stricter enforcement by the Public Service Commission, both on and off the coal haul routes.

The 2,100 miles of roads that DOH has approved so far for the 80,000-pound limit contain about 1,000 bridges. The weight limits for about 111 bridges can't be increased, DOH engineer Robert Watson said Thursday.

"When you check them structurally, they can't safely handle the excess loads," Watson said. "The law didn't provide us with any extra money to fix those 111 bridges."

Those bridges remain posted at lower weights. Haulers of timber, asphalt and other heavy loads have begun to complain of tickets they receive for crossing these posted bridges overweight.

"Those driving trucks, especially loggers, should be aware that the enforcement on these bridges are posted without a lot of warning," Mark Whitley, executive director of the Roane and Jackson County Economic Development Authority, told the Parkersburg News.

Whitley suggested the PSC entraps these truckers. Not so, the DOH's Watson said.

"They were all driving illegally before because they were all at 80,000 pounds, but nobody was asking any questions," he said.

PSC and Highways officials met with local officials Tuesday to resolve the concerns of Whitley and others.

"We're not sitting on or near a bridge waiting for a truck to come over," PSC spokeswoman Sarah Robertson said Thursday. "The DOH is addressing the issue of placement and location of the signs."

Watson said Highways has already reassessed and increased the weight limit on one Roane County bridge where haulers had complained of unfair ticketing. But with 34,610 miles of state routes alone, complaints are bound to increase, Watson predicted.

"There's going to be a lot more bridges to be posted," he said.