WV Public Broadcasting Staff
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Wed September 3, 2014
Morgantown Passes Heavy-Truck Traffic Ban
Morgantown City Council passed an ordinance 6-1 that limits heavy trucks traveling through the city's downtown area along State Route 7.
For years residents and businesses have complained about the truck traffic. After a short public hearing and an hour and a half of deliberation, last night’s vote is the first real action to address those concerns.
A similar attempt to limit truck traffic was made in 2006. Morgantown City Council at that time elected to negotiate with the Department of Highways and local industry to find a meaningful solution; however, negotiations failed to remedy the problem.
This effort was lead by a group called Safe Streets Morgantown, which crafted the ordinance.
"The ordinance was specifically written to be easily enforced," said Evan Hansen is a local downtown business owner and member of the group Safe Streets Morgantown. He spoke during the public hearing that preceded the vote.
"To be clear, this is not an overweight truck ordinance," Hansen said. "No scales are required because the ordinance is based on the trucks declared gross weight which is written on the registration card."
The proposed ordinance would see trucks weighing 13 tons or more rerouted around the downtown. There’s a list of exceptions to the rule:
- Trucks moving merchandise for downtown businesses
- Emergency or Military Vehicles
- Governmental Vehicles
- Solid Waste Disposal Vehicles
- Vehicles used for towing
- Vehicles on an Established Detour
- Vehicles with special permits from the city manager
Questions that held up a vote were mostly those concerning enforcement such as personnel, training, equipment, and signage.
Even though no one showed up to speak against the ordinance, there's a lot of uncertainty among council members and the city manager about how the ordinance will be received by the state and federal departments of highways as well as companies which might doubt the city's ability to enforce such an order.
Earlier this summer the West Virginia Department of Highways said such an ordinance would not be valid without approval from the Commissioner of Highways. City manager Jeff Mikorski said earlier that approval was unlikely.
In the end, council members mostly agreed that if challenged, the ordinance would likely stand in a court of law. The one member who voted against the ordinance said he wasn’t comfortable enough with the plan to vote “yes.”
Council members did pass an amendment to make the ordinance effective 90 days from passage, instead of immediately. They hope the three-month window of time is sufficient to work out the logistics of implementation.