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West Virginia City Loses Appeal to Regulate Heavy Truck Traffic

April 11, 2016

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The Morgantown, W. Va., city council has lost an appeal to regulate traffic along Route 7 in its jurisdiction based on size and weight.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia affirmed an earlier ruling that denied the City of Morgantown the ability to regulate, by municipal ordinance, the weight and size of certain vehicles traveling on W.Va. State Route 7 through the city's downtown.

According to court documents, a local group called Safe Streets Morgantown wanted to prevent heavy truck traffic from using th state road through Morgantown’s business district and asked the city council to enact an ordinance prohibiting vehicles exceeding certain weight and size limits.

The city council met with the West Virginia Department of Transportation's Division of Highways to discuss its desire to regulate Route 7 through a city ordinance. However, DOH advised Morgantown that the state legislature had granted the Commissioner of Highways the power to manage and control the use of public highways within the state road system and without the commissioner’s permission, any regulation would be invalid.

The city council went ahead and enacted an ordinance on Sept 2, 2014 prohibiting the use of a heavy truck with a gross combined declared gross weight of over 26,000 pounds from operating in the city’s downtown business district. The exception to the rule was when the use of a large truck was necessary to conduct business at a destination within the business district.

In response to the rule, Nuzum Trucking Company and Preston Contractors filed a complaint challenging Morgantown’s heavy truck ordinance, arguing that the regulation was preempted by state law.  

The court eventually ruled in favor of the trucking companies, in January 2015. The Morgantown city council appealed the judgment but on April 7, 2016 the district court affirmed the original ruling.

Ultimately, the court would not allow the City of Morgantown to regulate the size or weight of vehicles traveling on Route 7 within the city because it was part of the state road system and was out of their jurisdiction.

“A connecting part of the state road system is not under the jurisdiction of a local authority for purposes of regulating anything other than traffic,” the court document stated. “Therefore, W. Va. Code § 17C-17-12 does not authorize a municipality to prohibit the operation of trucks or to impose limitations on the size or weight thereof on a connecting part of the state road system.”

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