February 24, 2005
Coal truck solution sought
West Virginia lawmakers created the problems Chesapeake is
experiencing with about 400 trips by coal trucks running through the
town each day, and now they're looking for an act of Congress to fix
Meanwhile, town officials are working with the coal industry on a
plan to cut the number of coal truck trips through Chesapeake in
In 2003, the Legislature designated certain roads in coalfield
counties to handle trucks with loads up to 120,000 pounds. That was
a response to the problems caused by heavy coal trucks that
repeatedly violated the weight limits of many roads.
Unfortunately, for Chesapeake the solution to one problem caused
a new problem for the town. Lawmakers designated W.Va. 61 through
the town as one of the routes for the heavy coal trucks to use,
because federal law prohibits weights of more than 80,000 pounds on
the West Virginia Turnpike, which is part of the interstate highway
"It's a bad situation," Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, said. "The
town is sort of caught in the middle of different jurisdictions."
The seven Democratic members of Kanawha County's 30th House
District have sponsored a resolution to encourage Congress to grant
a waiver to the federal weight limits on a portion of the Turnpike.
Kanawha County senators plan to introduce a similar resolution next
Delegate Bonnie Brown, the lead sponsor of the House resolution,
said something must be done to help relieve Chesapeake residents,
not only of the heavy truck traffic going through their town, but
also from the dust and dirt those trucks leave behind. She said she
went there with Delegate Bobbie Hatfield to see how bad the
"There are huge globs of gunk all along the highway," Brown said.
"People's cars are filthy. Their yards, it's all over everything,
and it's deplorable."
Delegate Sharon Spencer said it's especially unfair for
Chesapeake residents to be burdened with the coal truck traffic,
because the coal docks where those trucks take their loads are
outside the town, so Chesapeake doesn't get "a penny of severance
money." She wants lawmakers to do "whatever we need to do to give
those people some relief, because it's a real problem."
Mayor Damron Bradshaw, who has a job working for the Legislature,
said he has been getting support from most members of the Kanawha
County legislative delegation and the West Virginia Coal Association
to persuade Congress to allow the trucks to use the Turnpike.
"Everybody seems to want to get the trucks up there," he said.
Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said, "Clearly, Mayor Bradshaw has
made his point loud and clear."
Senate Minority Leader Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, said he hopes the
Senate resolution will be introduced by Tuesday or Wednesday.
"The Turnpike is so much better built than the local roads, and
yet we're running those coal trucks over those local roads," he
said. "It does not make sense to me."
Sprouse said U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., wants to
help get Congress to approve a waiver for the Turnpike.
The House resolution seeks a waiver on the section of Turnpike
between Marmet and Chelyan, but the Senate resolution is likely to
take in a bigger section that extends into Fayette County, because
Sen. Shirley Love, D-Fayette, has expressed interest in it. Sprouse
said he thinks the waiver should go from Mossy to Marmet.
Chris Hamilton, vice president of the Coal Association, indicated
there is a good chance Congress will grant the waiver, because it
has granted similar waivers elsewhere on the interstate highway
system. The first such variance was in Wyoming to accommodate coal
truck, he said.
Other variances are along Interstate 70 in the Northern Panhandle
to accommodate steel shipments and along Interstate 68 in northern
West Virginia and the Maryland panhandle to accommodate shipments of
timber, Hamilton said.
The Coal Association has been working with both Capito and U.S.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., on the proposed waiver of weight limits
on the Turnpike, he said.
Meanwhile, Hamilton said, his organization is also trying to help
Chesapeake to cut its coal truck traffic in half by getting the
trucks to use the Turnpike after they've dumped their loads and are
light enough to meet the interstate highway weight limits.
"It's just a matter of coordinating the empties with the loaded
truck perhaps with a little more precision than what's been done
heretofore," he said. "But it makes perfect sense to the extent it
would make a more efficient traffic flow through those towns. I
think it's very achievable."
Contact writer Jim Wallace at 348-4819.