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Caltrans In Hot Water Over Permitted Loads - Again

November 1, 1999

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The California Department of Transportation, already under fire for issuing oversize load permits and routing that resulted in overpass crashes, is coming under more scrutiny after a bridge collapsed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Caltrans admitted last week that it had routed several overweight trucks over a temporary bridge near Lompoc, CA. Permit writers apparently were not aware that there were weight restriction on the bridge - or even that a temporary bridge was there.
The two-lane bridge on Hwy. 246 had been open for two weeks when it collapsed Oct. 21, right after a truck drove across carrying a huge excavator that weighed more than twice the 40-ton load limit of the bridge.
California Highway Patrol officials were amazed no one was killed.
Caltrans permitting procedures have been under fire since a motorist was killed in July when a permitted load hit an overpass. According to the LA Times, during the last 3-1/2 years, permit writers have sent at least 33 trucks crashing into overpasses that were too low for the over-height loads.

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The LA Times found that at least five states have systems in place that would prevent these types of crashes. West Virginia, for instance, has a system that automatically checks the height, width and weight of oversized loads against a database of bridges and state roads. Minnesota and Pennsylvania have similar computerized systems.
In contrast, the paper says, California permit writers rely on manual maps and a computer system estimated to be only 60% complete.
California state Sen. Joe Dunn plans to call for legislative action to bring California's permitting system up to speed. Oversized trucking has increased 40% in the state in the last six years.

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