October 24, 2014

OUR VIEW: One item missing in 2015 budget: truck scales

As trucks whiz by and rumble through town, residents complain, windows shake and roads take a beating.
City officials have taken the first step toward ensuring the impact of truck traffic in Gardner is minimal – training a police officer to inspect trucks – but they haven’t gone far enough. They need to budget $30,000 to $50,000 for a portable weigh scale to keep overloaded trucks off our streets.
City staff initially recommended a budget that included $30,000 for a portable truck scale, but somewhere between the initial proposal and the final revisions, the truck scale purchase was dropped.
It wasn’t dropped in the race to cut the tax rate. The proposal for the scales fell out of the budget sometime before then. While we’re thrilled to see tax rates lowered following a very recent 30 percent rate increase, we’re disappointed that council didn’t fight to keep the scales in the budget, perhaps by dropping $30,000 from the proposed $280,000 merit pool.
With the state weigh station currently located on Interstate 35 between the 175th Street exit in Gardner, and the opening of the Lone Elm exit in Olathe, limiting truck traffic through town will become ever more critical as overloaded trucks can more easily use Gardner roads to dodge the state scales.
As construction on the intermodal ramped up, truck traffic has increased in town. Many of the trucks that speed through town show nary a sign of slowing for traffic signals and a pedestrian-friendly downtown.
We’re just beginning to see the negative impacts of all of that traffic. Officials anticipate as many as 7,000 trucks per day on local roads once the intermodal is completed and at full capacity.
There are several concerns, including: trucks are heavier than cars and one truck through town wears the road equivalent to 9,600 cars.The trucks are noisy and sometimes shake windows as they rumble down Main Street, they congest our roads, and trucks that are not properly maintained can be a safety hazard.
There’s not much that can be done about eliminating truck traffic on Main Street; U.S. 56 Highway,is, for now, is a state-owned road.
But there are things that can be done to mitigate the impending damage.
City officials have taken the first of many steps to limit the problems by sending an officer to truck inspection training.
But that’s a drop in the bucket.
City officials should make purchasing portable weigh scales a priority. For about $50,000, the city can take the next step. Fines for overweight trucks should be prohibitively expensive.
As much as we want to make this town a desirable place to visit and live, we want to make it an undesirable place for trucks to race through.

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