Our View: Don't allow impatience to hurt safety

December 19, 2006 12:00 am

If hungry, you wouldn't demand that the cook served your hamburger before it was properly cooked. But that seems to be what some local officials demanded last week when upset with Caltrans over truck limitations on highways leading to Crescent City.

There's little doubt that truck restrictions hamper our economy, as Del Norte County's Local Transportation Commission says. Because longer semis cannot travel U.S. Hwys. 101 and 199, some businesses have difficulty bringing goods into Crescent City and Del Norte County. And if trying to fix a problem, Caltrans certainly is not the waitress you'd want serving your table.

But there's good reason for the truck limitations. Several points on both highways are simply too narrow for long trucks to negotiate without crossing into the other lane – and threatening other drivers' lives.

The transportation commission, which has rightly pressed for highway improvements so trucks can get here, wants some short-term solutions until Caltrans finishes straightens and widens some of the worse points in a few years. One of those solutions is using stoplights to control traffic, such as through Richardson's Grove on Hwy. 101, so long trucks can cross the centerline with no oncoming traffic.

In addition to frustrating all other drivers with long waits, it doesn't adequately address another reason why Hwys. 101 and 199 must keep its limitations: Parts of those roads simply can't handle the heavy loads of a long truck. Crumbling asphalt and soft shoulders are just as important to safe travel as are wide lanes and curves.

In any case, blaming our economic woes on truck limitations and Caltrans is a bit oversimplified. Other factors, such as the number of potential customers and their buying power, play a large role. Which businesses we attempt to recruit here, and the effort we've made to that end, also bears scrutiny.

Yes, we need Hwys. 101 and 199 improved so long trucks can come here. Local officials should press even harder for those projects. But we until those improvements are made, we shouldn't be upset that Caltrans has put road safety first – just as we should expect the cook put food safety first.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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