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I-81 toll booths scrapped

Md. wants weigh station

July 20, 2005|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

tarar@herald-mail.com

A Maryland proposal to place toll booths along Interstate 81 is off the table, but the state wants to move forward with plans to build a truck weigh and inspection station along a busy southbound stretch of the highway in Washington County.

The weigh station would be part of Maryland's proposed I-81 widening project, state officials told the County Commissioners at a meeting Tuesday morning. The facility is proposed for the southbound lane of I-81, between U.S. 40 and Halfway Boulevard.

David W. Czorapinski, chief of the Maryland State Highway Administration, said I-81 has the heaviest truck traffic in the state and that a weigh and inspection station would make highway travel safer. Thirty-four percent of the highway's traffic is trucks, he said.

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Approximately 400 to 700 trucks per hour could go through the station, state officials said.

Czorapinski said such a facility would result in more state troopers for the area.

Some commissioners opposed a weigh station at the proposed location, which already is a congested section of I-81.

"I encourage you to go to West Virginia and try to put this truck station in ... not us," Munson said.

Munson said the inspection station would be a road block to economic development in the county and that it would eat up prime commercial land. He said it would divert trucks trying to bypass the station to local roads.

Czorapinski said the state is considering using technology that allows police to spot trucks trying to avoid the weigh station. He said cameras could be placed along routes that truck drivers likely would take to avoid the station. The images would be sent to laptops in patrol cars, so police know which trucks to pull over.

Kercheval said he was concerned that a weigh station at the proposed location, which is near retail areas, would add to safety problems rather than relieve them.

"I just can't, in my head, picture that volume of trucks in that one little section ..." Kercheval said.

He said 400 to 700 trucks per hour would have to merge on and off the ramps leading to and from the station.

"We have such a narrow space there," Kercheval said.

"I'm a little skeptical on that myself," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after the meeting. "It just seems like it's mislocated. That whole area is congested. I just think it's better off going to Pennsylvania or West Virginia and let them have the revenue" from truck violations.

Wivell said he was surprised at the size of the station.

"They're talking about parking spaces for 800 trucks," Wivell said. "They must be planning on fining a lot of trucks."

Trucks found to have infractions after stopping at the station could be ordered "out of service" by state police, state officials said. If that's the case, drivers would have to park the trucks at the station.

Czorapinski said that if the weigh station is approved for Washington County, West Virginia state officials said they would consider building a weigh station along a northbound section of I-81.

Munson said he thought that if Maryland gets its "foot in the door" with an inspection station, it would try to "jam tolls down our throats," too.

"The state has never ever tried to force anything down our throats," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

Nicole Washington, project manager for the I-81 improvement project, said toll booths no longer were an option in the county.

She said the state received so many objections from county residents and government officials over the toll proposal that it decided to not push the issue.

"We heard the concerns and we heard them loud and clear, and they're no longer part of the study," Washington said.

Washington said she couldn't say whether the toll proposal would become a possibility later.

The proposed I-81 project is still in the planning stages and is estimated to cost about $550 million, she said.

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