By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
A movement is afoot by some Del Norte County officials to get bigger rigs down Highway 199, which may mean more goods for cheaper prices.
Recent widening improvements to parts of the highway have inspired members of the Local Transportation Commission to test-run a truck, within the next couple of months, that currently requires expensive escort cars and flaggers.
"From a commerce standpoint, a trucking company wants to use the biggest truck they can," said LTCO board member and California Highway Patrol Lt. Lyle Radtke.
Currently, the only way to get large freight trucks of supplies to Crescent City is through Roseburg, Ore, over to Coquille and down Highway 101.
Once here and unloaded, the truck cannot go south on Highway 101 to Eureka nor east on Highway 199 to Medford, because those roads won't permit them.
The truck must take the long journey back up through Oregon and around to its other destinations.
"We know the solution is to build a bigger safer highway, but that's millions and millions of dollars and won't happen for a long time," Radtke said.
The short-term solution has been to pinpoint the main danger areas and make workable adjustments.
Seven danger areas were identified. Four have been improved and the rest are almost finished, Radtke said.
For instance, the most narrow spot in what's known as the "narrows" north of Patrick Creek has been widened three feet by chipping off protruding rock.
The roadway is currently designated as a Red Route, meaning trucks measuring 65 feet and less are permitted.
LTCO members are moving to change that designation to a Brown Route, allowing slightly larger trucks like those carrying large construction equipment on trailers.
Radtke said companies in Medford or Grants Pass cannot haul construction equipment on trailers to Crescent City via Highway 199 without the expensive escorts and flaggers.
Changing the designation to a Brown Route will permit the trucks without the escorts.
This change can only occur, however after LTCO proves it can be done.
Sometime in September or October, CHP, Caltrans and members of LTCO will mount a helicopter with a video camera to document the test and record where problem areas still lie, if any exist.
After the test, Caltrans officials will make a decision and notify the public.