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County urged to oppose truck weight increases

3/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Ohio House passes bill, issue now moves on to Ohio Senate

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council members were asked to weigh in on action in the Ohio General Assembly that could see an increase in the allowable weight limits for trucks on the state’s highways.

Brian Shuford, with the Alexandria, Va.-based Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT), spoke before Council during the March 4 meeting and said the organization is opposed to changes that could lead to the maximum truck weight raised from 80,000 pounds to 90,000 pounds.

Shuford said the Ohio House passed House Bill 35 Feb. 28 and the issue was headed to the Ohio Senate’s Transportation Committee as early as March 11.

The CABT believes heavier trucks are more dangerous because they require a greater stopping distance, have a higher likelihood of rollover and an increased risk of being involved in a crash, Shuford said.

Heidi Swindell, of the Summit County Engineer’s Office, said the office has been looking into the issue.

“We are absolutely against this,” she said.

Councilman Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1) said he and Councilwoman Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) have been in touch with fellow members of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) regarding the issue.

“We have contacted the appropriate people at CCAO to make sure this will not go through,” Kostandaras said.

Swindell said CCAO had requested late last week that county officials pass resolutions stating their objections to the weight limit increase. There wasn’t enough time to craft a resolution for introduction before the meeting, she said, but the Engineer’s Office has been in touch with elected state officials to voice the county’s opposition.

In addition, Kostandaras said he had been in touch with Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose’s (R-District 27) office. LaRose is on the Senate Transportation Committee.

Information provided by Shuford also stated that the proposed weight increase would also require cities and counties to allow trucks with heavy loads to travel from the Ohio Turnpike onto local and state roads for up to 2 miles from each exit.

Swindell said many roads are not able to handle increased loads.

“The county highways are not built the way state highways are,” she said. “We don’t build our roads to that standard. If they’d like us to, we’d like them to give us more money.”

She added that she had not heard anything about the trucking industry’s position on the proposed change.

In other business, Council adopted on first reading a resolution that will allow the Engineer’s Office to move Ohio Public Works Commission grant funding from some stalled projects to others.

Swindell said the change would allow the county to put $1.4 million toward four other projects, including the planned resurfacing of Ghent Road and North Cleveland-Massillon Road in Bath Township.

Among the projects on hold is the proposed Medina Line Road bridge project the county plans with Medina County. Swindell said a design firm recommended that more foundation work be added to the project, which will add to the cost.

Also Monday, Council adopted a resolution to accept a consent decree that requires the county to pay $400,000 to settle all claims arising from the lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court by 21 female employees of the Sheriff’s Office who claimed they were discriminated against because of their gender.

According to the decree, the plaintiffs are or have been deputy sheriffs assigned to the jail. They alleged that “the county subjected them to disparate terms and conditions of employment on the basis of their sex by sex-segregating deputy sheriff positions” in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

In other news, the meeting was the first at which Council members used newly purchased iPads to read the week’s legislation and supporting documents. [For more on that, see “Elected officials look to embrace technology” in the Feb. 28, 2013, edition or online in the archives at www.akron.com, as well as the related story on Page 1.]

County Council will next meet for committee meetings March 11 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. in Downtown Akron.

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