Timnath council begins crackdown on Port of Entry dodgers with new traffic ordinance

The issue of semi-trucks rumbling — or roaring — down Main Street in Old Town Timnath is proving to be as weighty as the vehicles themselves. Size definitely matters in the ongoing debate over safety measures to protect vulnerable school-bound children, pets, pedestrians and private property from traffic some residents say is generated by truck drivers trying to avoid the Port of Entry on Interstate 25.

A 2002 ordinance prohibited vehicles over 7.5 tons on town streets. Emergency, government or farm equipment, as well as resident-owned or operated vehicles and vehicles doing business in the area bounded by Harmony Road, CR 1, I-25 and CR 44 were excepted.

In 2008, a new ordinance decreed a change from excepted “in the area bounded by…” to excepted “in the Growth Management Area” which allows vehicles on Main Street that have business in town or Growth Management Area.

Then in 2012 came yet another revised ordinance with exception that reverted back to the original bounded area, but further “Ordinance incorporated 2002 Ordinance limited area instead of 2008 GMA exception. Exempted Harmony Road to allow its use.”

And now in 2014, newly amended ordinance language regarding exceptions states: “Vehicles owned or operated by resident or vehicles doing business in GMA – allows vehicles on Main Street that have business in town or GMA. Main Street/CR5 south of Harmony. Exempts Harmony.”

On June 10, the complex issue was the second order of business on the agenda for Timnath’s Town Council. It was the second reading of the ordinance and included a public hearing. Eleven concerned citizens were in attendance.

Town Manager April Getchius explained the ordinance and its history. Effectively, local truck traffic is allowed, while through-only traffic is not.

Police Chief Sherry Wagner addressed concern that Timnath would be perceived as truck-unfriendly. She said, however, that hasn’t become an issue thus far, even though numerous trucks have been stopped to check documentation.

Long-time Main Street resident Diane Fusaro said she thinks trucks are cutting through Timnath to avoid the Port of Entry on I-25.

Denise Fisher related a story of a child chasing a pet dog darting into the street. She said a SUV barely stopped in time. However, she added, a loaded semi couldn’t possibly have and would have struck the child. She talked about driveway access of Main Street residents. Also, Fisher believes Main Street north of Harmony Road should not allow any semi traffic whatsoever and that the existing speed limit of 25 mph should be better enforced.

A resident since 1987, Beth Butcher recalled that she always worried about large trucks on Main Street when her daughter used to walk to Timnath Elementary School. She told of numerous recent trips driving to the Post Office on which semis avoiding the Port of Entry followed her. She noted that many pieces of construction equipment without license plates of any kind drive through Old Town. She voiced great concern for the safety of students and pedestrians.

Norma Warren has resided on Main Street adjacent to Timnath Elementary School for decades. She asked who actually came up with the idea of allowing trucks to pass through town. She requested a comprehensive study of public comments prior to approval of the new ordinance. Regarding enforcement, she related how a loaded livestock truck drove straight through town without any interference and said the lack of enforcement is unacceptable.

Mayor Jill Grossman-Belisle shared residents’ concerns and agreed with a change to use an alternate route, as described in the ordinance, for through traffic. However, she said that the growing town requires some trucks in the GMA. She admitted that some time limitations should be enforced rather than allowing trucks 24/7, and believes police staff should make enforcement a priority. Police Chief Wagner agreed, but said that staffing limitations don’t always allow it.

Council member Bill Neal stated he has observed cement trucks using Main Street as a throughway. He asked if there is some type of pavement strip available to record vehicle weights. Several replies said there are not.

Getchius proposed improvements to speed-limit signs and asked how much electronic monitors that clock individual vehicle speed cost. Police Chief Wagner replied that she believes the devices begin in the range of $15,000 each.

Mayor Grossman-Belisle then listed the suggestions made thus far in the meeting: communications with cement truck drivers via mailed flyers; prioritizing enforcement; a truck study/follow-up with a pattern of offenders; additional weight limit signage; get the message out to “local players”; investigate other agencies’ assistance with Port of Entry dodgers.

Councilman Bryan Voronin questioned any added value of GMA language in the ordinance. Town Manager Getchius addressed his inquiry and some public comment ensued.

Councilman Neal then discussed the dangers present on CR 40, including lack of a shoulder on that road and several near collisions he’s witnessed involving pickup trucks. He summed up his comments by stating that steps to insure public safety must be taken until completion of the bypass.

Voronin and Wagner briefly discussed the possibility of portable weigh scales to discourage Port of Entry dodgers.

Council voted was unanimously to approve the ordinance.

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