Citing environmental concerns, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors this week voted against allowing Caltrans to build a truck weigh station along U.S. 101 near the Rincon.
"It's an environmentally sensitive area," said Supervisor Maggie Erickson, who represents the beachside communities near the proposed weigh station. "We need to look at protecting the citizens of Ventura County."
In a 4-1 vote, the board agreed with its Planning Commission that the weigh station would substantially alter Javon Creek, which functions as a wildlife corridor to the Pacific Ocean. The board also voiced strong concerns that potentially unsafe trucks would detour past homes along the old Pacific Coast Highway in attempts to bypass the weigh station.
Jack Hallin, Caltrans chief of project development, said the agency probably will appeal the decision to the California Coastal Commission.
Caltrans had picked the U.S. 101 site as the most suitable of six it studied. The $4.3-million weigh station would allow officials to inspect trucks for possible excess cargo loads, mechanical problems or leakage of hazardous waste, a special concern with trucks that use U.S. 101 going north to reach Casmalia, the only hazardous-waste landfill in Southern California.
But several area residents who spoke against the proposal at a public hearing Tuesday said unlawful trucks are the ones most likely to circumvent the station by taking an alternative beach route along the Old Pacific Coast Highway beside the residential communities of Faria and Solimar Beach.
"We are creating a situation where the question is not if an accident will occur, but when," said John Quinn, a resident of Solimar Beach.
Other area residents said a weigh station would set a dangerous precedent for other development along the coast.
"This is 12.5 acres of concrete along our coast," said Pat Baggerly of Meiners Oaks, speaking on behalf of the environmental group, Citizens to Preserve the Ojai.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who represents Simi Valley, was the only board member supporting the Caltrans project.
"We have to begin to deal with the hazardous-waste issue. I see that as a higher priority," Dougherty said.
But the rest of the board was not swayed, despite testimony from the Ventura County district attorney's office that most of the truckers prosecuted for unlawful transportation of hazardous waste are caught at a similar weigh station at the top of the Conejo Grade.
"If we don't have these kinds of facilities it's hard to detect these violations," said Greg Brose, a senior deputy district attorney who heads the office's environmental unit.
The board also passed up an opportunity for substantial revenue that a weigh station might bring to county coffers.
The Conejo Grade station brings in $1 million in annual revenue through fines, the bulk of which goes to the city of Thousand Oaks.
Neither was it persuaded by a Caltrans proposal to mount a TV monitor at the site to videotape truckers attempting to take an alternative route.
But Erickson did say that she wanted to see weigh stations installed both along California 118 and 126 to catch truckers with illegal loads as they enter the county.
About 1,900 trucks pass through Ventura County every 24 hours, and this figure is expected to grow to 3,100 by the year 2000.
Of 1,800 trucks monitored by the California Highway Patrol along U.S. 101 in a recent study, 600 had bypassed the Conejo Grade weigh station, whether by purposely taking alternative routes or entering the county from a different location, said Capt. William C. Brown, who heads the Highway Patrol in Ventura County.