Businessman: Superior St. Logging Trucks a Safety Risk

Posted at: 10/18/2013 5:47 PM | Updated at: 10/18/2013 6:43 PM
By: Alan Hoglund
ahoglund@wdio.com

Business people and city councilors are making a new push for a change to truck traffic in downtown Duluth. They said Friday that logging trucks are posing a safety risk and tearing up the roads.

City Councilor Sharla Gardner wants to put together a council resolution with help from Councilor Emily Larson backing Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minnesota, who wants to help. But Gardner wasn't clear about when we may see it show up on a council agenda.

The issue is about weight limits on part of Interstate 35 in Duluth. They're set by Congress at 80,000 pounds during the summer.

Gardner supports an increase so loaded logging trucks stop using Superior Street where the weight limits are higher. The limit is 90,000 pounds during the summer as long as the truck has six axles, according to Ray Higgins with the Minnesota Timber Producers Association.

Supporting the change is Doug Melander, co-owner of Mainstream Fashions for Men on Superior Street. He told Eyewitness News he sees two or three loaded logging trucks out his front window every hour. He supports a weight limit change on the Interstate mainly because of safety concerns.

Melander said "it's the same thing as 'do we really need to wait until somebody gets hurt to put up a stop light on the corner?'"

Gardner shares that fear.

"They're not always as stable and they have tipped over. The damage to the people and the downtown if that were to happen is terrible," she said.

There was an accident in December 2012 that sent logs tumbling across London Road near 26th Avenue East. In this situation the driver was cited for improperly securing the logs.

Responding to safety concerns, Higgins said "the professionals that drive these trucks have commercial licenses. They've had more training. They are constantly subject to drug and alcohol testing and the fact is there is no data that shows there are a lot of truck accidents on Superior Street."

And Higgins said the logging trucks aren't responsible for most of the wear and tear on the roads. "Logging trucks are doing less damage to the roads than a regular semi truck because we've got an extra axle."

He said that distributes the weight over a greater area.

Like Melander and Gardner, Higgins also supports a higher weight limit on the Interstate. He said "I've never met anybody that would rather have trucks on Superior Street than I-35. No logger, no trucker, no downtown merchant, no elected official that I've ever met."

In September 2012, about 70 logging truck drivers protested the Interstate weight limit by driving through downtown in their trucks. But no change followed.

For those of you asking why 10,000 pounds makes such a difference, Higgins put it into perspective.

Higgins said if a logging company wants to deliver 720,000 pounds of timber in a day, and the trucks carry 80,000 pounds at a time, it will take nine trips. If the trucks carry 90,000 pounds at a time, it will take one less trip.

"Less fuel being used, helps the environment in terms of fewer emissions," he said.

So what happens next?

According to Jeff Anderson, the district director for Congressman Nolan's Office, "the Congressman is engaged in conversations with the City of Duluth, the Federal Highway Authority and Mn/DOT to get their input."

Anderson said the Nolan is "dedicated to finding a solution to this problem."

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