FAIRFIELD — A new, $100 million eastbound Interstate 80 truck scale weigh station had its coming-out party Friday.
Dozens of local, regional and state officials came to the complex for the 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. They gave speeches and took tours.
About the only thing missing was trucks, other than two construction trucks used as props. The trucks on I-80 continued to use the adjacent, 55-year-old California Highway Patrol truck scales complex, with its short ramps that have long caused freeway traffic problems.
Trucks should start using the new scales complex during the week that begins July 22, state Department of Transportation spokesman Vince Jacala said. He didn’t have a precise date.
If the speakers at Friday’s event are correct, the new setup will create faster, safer traffic flow on I-80. Also, it will promote safety by allowing the California Highway Patrol to screen and inspect more trucks, making certain they are not carrying too much weight or are in unsafe condition.
“This is first and foremost about public safety,” said state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis.
The new complex will certainly do its job with a sense of style and with technology not seen at the 1958 eastbound scales.
“It’s safe to say this truck scale will be a huge step forward and set the bar, not only for truck scales in California, but nationwide,” Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi said.
The 1958 scales complex is stripped down and basic. A small brick building and portables house the offices. Truck inspections are done in what amounts to a large metal shed that is open to the wind. Vegetation is nonexistent, unless a weed grows through a crack in the asphalt.
In contrast, the new trucks scales complex is an attention-getter. The main building’s front facade incorporates curves and elevation changes. The seven-bay inspection building looks big enough to easily contain the old inspection shed. Trees, grass and decorative rocks provide landscaping.
One of the visitors Friday looked at the interior of the new truck inspection building, saw the vast concrete floor, silver metal inspection control rooms and towering metal roof and said it looked like a scene from “Star Wars.”
Much of the new complex involves ramps designed to give trucks more room to enter and leave the scales. The ramps leaving the scales include a bridge structure to separate trucks re-entering I-80 with vehicles on I-80 leaving the freeway for Highway 12.
Plus, the new truck scales complex uses technology to screen trucks for more detailed safety inspections and makes increased use of weigh-in-motion scales. Speakers said all of this will help with the flow of goods carried by trucks from the Port of Oakland to inland areas.
“This is a good facility – good for the nation, good for the state and good for this region,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield.
It’s been a long time coming. The Solano Transportation Authority began looking to replace the truck scales more than a decade ago as a way to improve local freeway traffic flow. Local leaders initially wanted to relocate the weigh station to a different area miles away – basically get it away from the congested Interstates 80 and 680 interchange — but the California Highway Patrol disagreed.
Meanwhile, the state had about 10 other truck scale complexes it wanted to renovate before it got to the local eastbound I-80 complex.
“It was basically an orphan project, didn’t have funding, didn’t have anyone who wanted to deal with it,” Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said.
Studies and the search for money followed. About $48 million came from Proposition 1B, the $19.9 billion transportation bond passed by state voters in 2006. Almost $50 million came from regional bridge tolls. Speakers said that Caltrans, the Solano Transportation Authority, the California Transportation Commission, the California Highway Patrol and various elected officials such as Wolk all made the project possible.
Halls said the project went from orphan child to poster child.
But, for all the celebratory mood, several speakers made it clear the job isn’t done yet. They pointed out that the 1958 westbound I-80 truck scales complex still remains to be renovated, with no construction date in sight.
“We can’t forget about the westbound scales,” county Supervisor Jim Spering said. “I think we’ve got the model. We’ve got the strategy. We just need now to pursue it.”
The 1958 eastbound truck scales complex has about 125,000 trucks pass through a month. It performs about 23,000 inspections annually. Each year, it takes about 2,300 trucks out of service, finds 4,600 brake violations and finds 600 weight violations, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.