The state should have enough money to build five port of entry truck weighing and inspection stations similar to one that recently opened in Kay County, but it will end up short of the money needed to construct three additional stations, Oklahoma's transportation secretary said Monday.
“Funding's not all in place for that to happen,” said Transportation Department Director Gary Ridley, who also serves as transportation secretary on Gov. Mary Fallin's Cabinet. “We don't have enough to build them all.”
Estimates indicate more than 8 million trucks will enter Oklahoma at the nine new, state-of-the-art weigh stations.
Before the Kay County station opened April 27 off Interstate 35 about a mile south of the Kansas line, less than 10 percent of commercial trucks driving on the state's roads were inspected or weighed, state transportation officials said.
Ridley said on average a truck enters the state from Kansas once every 35 seconds.
An identical station is scheduled to open late this summer off Interstate 40 in Beckham County near the Texas line.
The new stations will have the technological capacity to weigh moving trucks. Brake checks will also be performed at the stations, which will be connected to nearby exits to detect if trucks get off the highway in an apparent attempt to avoid the stations.
Most of the state's seven weigh stations are outdated and aren't open 24 hours a day. A couple aren't close to the state's borders, such as the one near El Reno, which is about 125 miles from the state's border. The new weigh stations will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will be checking trucks' weight, cargo and drivers.
Ridley said the Kay County center cost about $11 million. The cost includes the land that had to be bought for the station.
Once fully operational, the weigh station will include technology designed to thoroughly inspect and weigh commercial trucks while still on the roadway in an effort to work with the trucking industry to verify trucks are following all state and federal laws. Staff at the station also will be able to electronically and instantly review permits, registration, fuel tax payments and other documentation.
“It's not just the damage to the highways and bridges, which is amazing how much damage overweight trucks can do to bridges and highways, but it's also the safety aspect,” Ridley said. “So that the light vehicles that are traveling on the road know that the truck traveling next to them or right behind them is a safe vehicle.”
The state Corporation Commission, which staffs the weigh centers, agreed four years ago to provide about $54 million, to build the weigh stations. The money comes from the commission's underground storage tank fees, which generates about $6 million a year for the project through 2016.
Ridley has been seeking additional money from lawmakers the past couple years to pay for all the stations.
“There will be three left,” he said. “We figured it up that we were about $30 million short.”
The weigh stations have been a cooperative effort by three agencies. The Public Safety Department has troopers assigned to the stations to conduct inspections as well as to chase down noncompliant truckers.
Ridley said the Transportation Department is providing about $4 million to the project; it is responsible for building and maintaining the centers.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is providing about $11 million to build a weigh station on the Will Rogers Turnpike near the Missouri border, Ridley said.
The Public Safety Department has troopers assigned to the stations to conduct inspections as well as to the border.
The Kay County station replaces an older weigh station. When fully operational, it will feature weigh-in-motion technology that checks trucks' weight, size and permit status through road sensors, allowing drivers to receive a green light before entering the facility, Ridley said. The system is already in use in other states.
Other inspection stations will be along I-40 in Sequoyah County near the Arkansas border and I-35 in Love County, U.S. 69/75 in Bryan County and U.S. 271 in Choctaw County, all of which will be near the Texas border. A fully automated center will be built off U.S. 412 in Delaware County near the Arkansas border. All are within three miles of the state lines.
“These are where we have determined are the greatest need,” Ridley said. “These are high-volume areas. ... We're talking about a lot of trucks coming into the state.”
It's not just the damage to the highways and bridges, which is amazing how much damage overweight trucks can do to bridges and highways, but it's also the safety aspect. So that the light vehicles that are traveling on the road know that the truck traveling next to them or right behind them is a safe vehicle.”