It was going to be a supersize, $11 million weigh station built in the media on U.S. Route 1, where it intersects with Royal Palms Parkway. The Florida Department of Transportation said it needed the station to cut down on truckers evading weight limits on I-95 by using other routes.
Bunnell objected, saying nearby businesses like Austin Outdoors and VerdeGo, which rely on appearance to attract customers, would be hurt, Palm Coast objected, saying the weigh station would send truckers through the city. The school board objected, saying more trucks would end up barreling down evasive routes like Belle Terre Parkway, where two middle schools and two elementary schools are located. The county objected as well.
Last Tuesday, the Department of Transportation announced that the weigh station will not be built.
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Instead, the department will consider building a “virtual weigh in motion” station that would embed weighing mechanisms in the road. The mechanisms would alert transportation cops of a trucks’ overweight status. “That’s one of the things all the different jurisdictions recommended that they study,” Mick Cuthbertson, Bunnell’s community development director and the city’s point man on the weigh station, said this morning. “It still requires a certified scale that the truck can be placed on to officially show that the truck is overweight, and the plan now is to use the scale that already exists at the existing station on U.S. 1.”
The embedding doesn’t resolve the problem that instigated talk of a large weigh station in the first place: the absence of a station in the northbound lanes of U.S. 1. The old station along the southbound lanes, one mile north of Palm Coast Parkway, is located on the west shoulder of the road. Northbound truckers used to be required to make a u-turn to weigh in. That ended over safety concerns. The station is also outdated. It doesn’t comply with several federal regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, and its access road is very short. On a busy day, trucks back up into the highway.
State transportation officials previously argued that a more elaborate weigh station in the media of U.S. 1 would reduce evasive measures by truckers trying to avoid the weigh station on I-95, between State Road 100 and Palm Coast Parkway. But that station can easily be evaded as truckers exit on 100 or at the Parkway and drive up and down Old Kings Road, portions of which have just been widened for extra convenience.
For local governments, the state transportation’s issue is not their concern. The aim was to stop the new weigh station. “I believe it was the combined effort of Flagler County, the city of Palm Coast and the City of Bunnell collaboratively working,” Cuthbertson said. “We worked to identify alternatives as opposed to just standing up and saying no we don’t want it.”
Elbert Tucker, a Bunnell city commissioner, calculated that, based on today’s fines revenue from the existing weigh station on U.S. 1, it would take the state 111 years to make back the $11 million it would invest in a new station. But weigh stations and the fines they generate aren’t intended to raise revenue so much as deter truck drivers from operating illegally heavy trucks, which damage highways and add high costs to road repairs.
It’s not clear how much the embedding system will cost, only that it will be substantially less than a full-fledged weigh station.