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Oklahoma weighs its options for port of entry stations

Oklahoma weighs its options for port of entry stations

This article first appeared in the Tulsa World and

BY D.R. STEWART - Tulsa World
Published: May 1, 2009

TULSA — Oklahoma’s streets, highways and bridges could receive less of a beating next year, state transportation officials said Thursday.

After years of inaction by the Legislature and state agencies, the Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission are planning to construct three of nine proposed state-of-the-art commercial truck weigh stations by late 2010.

The facilities will be built with $61 million provided by the Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

"Our hope is to have construction begin this year,” said Richard Andrews, ODOT’s assistant division manager, project management.

"We’re looking at a 10-month construction project. We’ll begin construction on the other six as soon as the first three are completed.”

3 sites on the list
The first three weigh stations will be built along Interstate 40 at the Oklahoma-Texas border in Beckham County, along I-40 at the Oklahoma-Arkansas border in Sequoyah County and along I-35 at the Oklahoma-Kansas border in Kay County.

"The busiest route in Oklahoma is I-40 west because of the tremendous amount of traffic going to California, which is the 10th largest economy in the world,” said Dan Case, executive director of the Oklahoma Trucking Association.

"This is something that’s been needed for years. We’re going to have the most modern technology available, and we will know what is coming through our state. It’s good for security reasons, and it’s good for the preservation of our roads and highways.”

Oklahoma’s original 50-year-old network of 11 truck weigh stations includes facilities that are in disrepair, and poorly equipped and located, state officials say.

Only four of the facilities are operating. Weigh stations remain open at I-35 near Newkirk; on I-35 near Davis at the Texas border; on I-40 at El Reno and at Boise City in the Panhandle.

Known among agency officials as Port of Entry stations, the new inspection facilities will include weigh-in-motion sensors that can detect truck weights at 70 mph.

Vehicle registration numbers will be "read” by video cameras, which will be connected to a computer database of commercial truck permits.

"Looking at the database, we’ll be able to see if the truck is permitted appropriately,” ODOT’s Andrews said. "There will be information-sharing at all facilities.”

New technology
Other technology will include static scales and one virtual, unmanned inspection station with weight sensors implanted in the roadway.

The sensors and video cameras will detect trucks weighing more than the 80,000-pound legal limit and signal mobile enforcement officers with the truck’s registration number.

Optional technology if funding becomes available include heat sensors to measure overheated brakes and advanced X-ray machines to inspect cargo.

"Part of the design is looking at future truck traffic, making sure they can queue up (at the station) and not back up on the highway,” said Ken Morris, project manager for Benham Co. LLC, which is the project designer.

"If a truck is leaking, there will be a hazardous waste containment area on a remote part of the site.”

Architect for the Port of Entry buildings is Juan Sanchez of the Ashley Humphries & Sanchez architectural firm in Laredo, Texas.

"The firm has done a lot of stations along the border for the Texas Department of Transportation,” Morris said.

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