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Category Archives for "Regulations and Agencies"

Heavy Trucks and Roads: Not a Good Combination

Today, I heard a City of Morro Bay official describe the approval process for allowing huge (40 ton) construction trucks to utilize a badly deteriorating Morro Bay residential street for purposes of a private developer.
Basically, there is no approval process. It’s just a rubber-stamp. As long as the vehicle meets weight standards for highways (80,000 lbs), it’s A-OK to make several trips a day on an already broken city street. The only caveat was that the City would make a video tape before and after the project to document any visible damage and the developer would be responsible to fix it.

But Mr. City Engineer, it’s not that simple! Damage to our streets is cumulative and it may not show up until after the developer is long gone, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill.

It quite obvious how much damage heavy trucks cause to our major highways, let alone a tiny Morro Bay street. But a bit of research turns up some staggering facts:

A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) determined that the road damage caused by a single 18-wheeler was equivalent to the damage caused by 9,600 cars. (GAO: Excessive Truck Weight: An Expensive Burden We Can No Longer Afford) The study seems to have based its calculations around the number of axles per vehicle. The study found that essentially, road damage was related to the 4th power of the relative loads. That means that if one vehicle carries a load of 1,500 pounds per axle and another carries a load of 3,000 pounds on each axle, the road damage caused by the heavier vehicle is not twice as much, but 2 to the 4th power as much (2x2x2x2 = 16 times as much road damage as the lighter vehicle).

This writer’s opinion: If we are to allow private developers to use and/or abuse our infrastructure, those developers should assume the risk and foot the bill. The City of Morro Bay can’t afford to fix its streets under normal conditions, let alone with the burden of 80,000 lb loads. Furthermore, road damage is just one of many other possible infrastructure risks that we are taking on. It is my understanding that the developers are taking the position that once they receive the “OK” from the City, they aren’t responsible for anything beyond the obvious/superficial damage as documented by the before and after video.

Yes, City officials are likely excited about possible future development revenues from the jet fuel tank site, but they also have a responsibly to protect citizens from a possible fiscal disaster if this project goes wrong.

Morro Bay Stakeholders aren’t against development. But we do want City Hall to exercise utmost caution and professionalism. Because we simply can’t afford errors of this scale.