Williamsport considers restricting truck weights on some roads

March 07, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • A dump truck heads north on U.S 11 into Williamsport.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — On Potomac Street, near the G.A. Miller Lumber Co., the road slopes downward and sharply to the left, a place where the brake retarders of dump trucks start to grumble and loads can shift.

Just off that curve, in a parking lot, Michael Sparks hefted a chunk of stone the size of a soccer ball that he said came off a dump truck. Sparks, the town of Williamsport’s director of Economic and Community Development, said finding rocks of this size is not unusual.

The town is considering lowering weight limits on some roads within its boundaries to a gross vehicle weight of 26,000 pounds, Sparks said. That would keep many dump trucks and tractor-trailers off the restricted portions of those roads, even if they are not loaded, he said.

Local deliveries, like those to the lumber company, would be exempt from the restrictions, Sparks said.

Because of safety issues, noise, damage to streets and money, the town expects to propose changing the weight limits on U.S. 11, Md. 63 and Md. 68 to eliminate heavy truck traffic downtown, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said.

“This is really about maintaining the roads and not putting the burden on taxpayers who reap no benefit from these trucks going through town,” McCleaf said.

An ordinance to change the weight limits will be introduced in April and could be effective by June, he said.

Trucks coming into town from Md. 63 or Md. 68 would be directed onto U.S. 11 at its intersection with North Conococheague Street toward Exit 2 of Interstate 81, Sparks said. This would prevent heavy trucks from entering or leaving downtown by South Conococheague Street and the U.S. 11 bridge to West Virginia, McCleaf said.

“The authoritative right to place weight restrictions on these public facilities belongs to the town,” State Highway Administration District Engineer Anthony F.K. Crawford wrote in a Feb. 8 letter to Sparks. “The State Highway Administration ... does not maintain the sections of these three highways within the town limits and therefore does not have regulatory authority to place weight restrictions.”

Those maintenance responsibilities have become burdensome, McCleaf said. Five years ago, the state provided $144,000 to maintain the state roads in Williamsport, a figure that fell to $11,000 last year and $5,000 this year, he said.

That might cover the town’s road salt bill, Sparks said, but it’s not enough to repair potholes and washboard streets caused by truck traffic.

All local Highway User Revenue funds have been cut during the budgetary process in Annapolis, according to SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar.

Town officials met Feb. 8 with owners and representatives of area trucking companies and a quarry north of town, McCleaf said.

“Their main concern was to be able to haul the maximum amount of weight to their customers in West Virginia,” McCleaf said.

Attempts to contact several of the people at the meeting by telephone were unsuccessful as of Monday.

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