FAIRFIELD — Dignitaries had just finished speaking at the July 12 dedication of the new, $100 million eastbound California Highway Patrol truck scales and county Supervisor Jim Spering already had the future on his mind.
“We can’t forget the westbound truck scales,” Spering told the assembly of regional and state transportation leaders.
But when the westbound scales gets renovated is a $130 million question – as in, local transportation leaders need to find that much money for the project.
No longer does the local stretch of Interstate 80 have a matching pair of truck scales, virtual twins in appearance, built at the same time. Instead, it has the new and the old. There’s no mistaking which is which.
The westbound scales complex dates back to 1958. It is basic, with a brick building and a metal truck inspection bay that is open on two sides. The landscape is asphalt and concrete, with no green vegetation in sight. The offramp is fairly short and pits trucks merging onto I-80 against freeway traffic wanting to exit at Suisun Valley Road.
A list of the complex’s deficiencies are included in an environmental report for proposed Interstates 80 and 680 interchange area congestion-easing projects.
The westbound truck scales are located on the most congested freeway segment in Solano County, the report said. Trucks are slow to enter and leave the scales because of short ramps, making congestion worse, it said.
All the maneuvering between the trucks and freeway traffic in such short merge spaces creates safety issues, along with other traffic issues near the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange, the report said. This stretch of freeway has a higher accident rate and fatality rates than statewide averages for similar freeways.
In addition, an improved scales complex would ensure all trucks are weighed and inspected, the report said.
The report portrays things as only getting worse. I-80 carries about 186,000 vehicles daily and this is to increase to 270,000 by 2035.
The California Highway Patrol a few years ago ruled out relocating the truck scales to another location miles away, which would have removed the problem altogether. CHP officials said the location between the various interchanges leading to Highway 12 east, Highway 12 west and Interstate 680 best captured the truck traffic.
So local transportation leaders have been looking for ways to live with the truck scales. That means improving the onramps leading to them and offramps leading from them.
Plans call for moving the westbound truck scales a half-mile east of the existing site, east of Suisun Creek. Janet Adams, project director for the Solano Transportation Authority, said this will ease the traffic problems at the Suisun Valley interchange. So will improvements planned for the interchange.
But moving the scales farther away from the Suisun Valley interchange would bring them closer to I-80 onramps from Highway 12 east. Without doing still more modifications to the freeway, this would create traffic conflicts there. Among the planned solutions is building a bridge structure to take Highway 12 traffic entering I-80 over trucks on I-80 entering the truck scales.
Adding to the cost for the westbound scales project is the need to relocate the North Bay Aqueduct transmission line. This major line takes water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Vallejo and Napa.
Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said the relocation of the westbound truck scales is high on the local priority list.
Now the challenge is making it high on the priority lists of transportation agencies for the region, state and nation, agencies that could provide money. Halls said when officials from these various agencies come to see the renovated eastbound scales, he mentions the need for the westbound scales improvements.
“There’s no better time,” Halls said.
Adams said a goal is to get $30 million to do such things as utility relocations and right of way acquisition – basically get the project ready to build. Then it’s easier to attract construction money, she said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.