Purposes of CHP weigh stations include:
* Weighing trucks to ensure they are not overloaded
* Inspecting trucks to ensure they are in safe driving condition
* Ensuring that drivers are not fatigued and are in good condition to drive
* Watching for signs of terrorist intent
* Ensuring that hazardous materials are hauled safely
FAIRFIELD — California Highway Patrol Officer Dale Hernandez has no trouble listing problems associated with the 55-year-old eastbound Interstate 80 truck scales station near Cordelia.
Short offramps from I-80 can cause trucks to back up onto the freeway at times, closing down the scales. Short freeway onramps don’t give trucks enough space to pick up speed again before re-entering traffic. All of this adds to I-80 traffic congestion.
As for the aging scales station itself, Hernandez voices no complaints.
“It’s functional,” he said.
Spartan and no-nonsense. A block-like brick building and portables house the offices. The original 1958 office structure has no women’s restroom — that was a different era for the California Highway Patrol — so the restroom had to be added with the portable building.
Four truck inspection bays are beneath a metal structure that offers shelter from the rain but not the area’s persistent, strong wind, given that the shed is open on two sides. Truck inspectors scoot under the trucks on creepers.
Aesthetics don’t come into the picture. This is a world of concrete, asphalt and steel. As Hernandez noted, some weeds might break through the cracks, but that’s it for the landscaping.
Now comes the $100 million transformation.
About a half-mile east, the eastbound California Highway Patrol truck scales station of the future is almost completed. It could be open by August. It makes the present version look as dated as a black-and-white, cathode ray tube television with rabbit-ear antennas.
The new scales station has far more lane length for trucks to get up to speed before re-entering the freeway. In addition, an aerial structure will take vehicles leaving I-80 for Highway 12 over trucks leaving the scales for I-80, eliminating a point of traffic conflict.
Gone, too, is the Spartan feeling. The new scales office exterior has such architectural touches as a curving facade and different roof elevations. The grounds have trees, grass and other landscaping.
The new inspection shed is completely enclosed and has seven bays. Pits allow inspectors to look at trucks from underneath without using creepers. Small control rooms for the bays have heating and air conditioning for the operators, without having to worry about temperature control for the entire shed.
And the size? It appears that all of the 1958 truck scales structures — offices and inspection shed — might fit inside the new inspection shed. The new scales is a behemoth compared to its predecessor.
“It will be the biggest in the state,” Hernandez said.
Plus, it is packed with the latest technology. Weigh-in-motion scales and an electronic traffic management system that prioritizes truck inspection needs are among the features.
These are the last days of the old station in Cordelia. By the end of July, it should be deserted and awaiting the wrecking ball.
Goodbye and thanks for the memories. Farewell. But not good riddance, not as far as Hernandez is concerned.
“There’s a little bit of nostalgia for the old place,” said Hernandez, who has worked at the scales for two years. “But the new (scales) definitely has a lot of nice things going for it.”
Times were simpler when the 1958 scales were built. Then-Highway 40 was just being expanded to six lanes and the last of the highway traffic signals in the Fairfield area were being removed, setting the stage for Highway 40 to turn into the Interstate 80 freeway.
Today, about 112,000 vehicles pass by the scales daily, of which 6,272 are trucks. It’s unclear what traffic counts existed in 1958, but the levels were far less. The population of the Bay Area has almost tripled since then.
In 2003, the Solano Transportation Authority identified the Cordelia truck scales as the No. 1 cause of traffic problems at the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange. It predicted a 115 percent increase in truck traffic by 2040.
A 2001 CHP study expressed less urgency. It agreed that the westbound and eastbound Cordelia scales needed renovation. It ranked them 10th and 11th on a priority list of 13 proposed truck scale renovations throughout the state.
That meant a long wait in line to get limited renovation money. Instead, the Solano Transportation Authority pursued another strategy. It successfully pushed to get money from the voter-passed 2006 Proposition 1B transportation bond and regional bridge toll money.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the eastbound truck scales project took place in April 2012. Now, a ribbon-cutting ceremony should be coming up within a few weeks.
Meanwhile, a version of the 1958 eastbound truck scales will live on even after workers demolish the facility. The 1958 westbound scales are a near clone and the money has yet to be found to replace them.
— Reach Barry Eberling at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @beberlingdr