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Ventura County

Moorpark May Gear Up Inspections of Trucks

Safety: Council members believe keeping the California 118 checkpoint open longer would reduce big-rig traffic on New Los Angeles Avenue.

April 03, 2002|KARIN GRENNAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Moorpark City Council is set tonight to discuss expanding the hours of the California 118 truck inspection facility, the latest move in a decade-long battle to reduce the number of big rigs rumbling through town along New Los Angeles Avenue.

Councilman Keith Millhouse wants to find money to keep the station just west of town open eight hours a day on weekdays. Lt. Bruce Moncher with the California Highway Patrol said the facility is currently open eight hours a day an average of four days a week, but the schedule varies. Millhouse believes the actual hours are far fewer.

"Everyone I talk to who goes out that way says that thing is never open," Millhouse said.

Moorpark has been down this road before in seeking to increase inspections, but the city is at the mercy of Caltrans, which maintains the inspection facility, and the CHP, which provides the staff. Concerned that truckers choose California 118 over the Ventura Freeway to avoid the round-the-clock inspection facility on the Conejo Grade, city officials have lobbied for 24-hour-a-day inspections at the station near Moorpark.

But nighttime inspections would require lighting and other upgrades, in addition to increased staff.

Three years ago, the City Council asked Caltrans to ban trucks from the road altogether.

"It's been frustrating because we don't have any control over that stretch of roadway," Millhouse said.

Moncher said the CHP provides as much coverage of the inspection site as it can and would provide more if it had sufficient staff.

About 2,900 trucks travel the road each day, according to the Ventura County Transportation Commission. Officers currently inspect about 10 trucks a day when the station is open, looking for safety violations, required paperwork and signs of possible terrorist threats, Moncher said. By comparison, from 50 to 75 trucks are inspected daily at the Conejo Grade, CHP Lt. Jeff Goodwin said.

"We agree with Moorpark 100% that it's valuable to be out there. It's a very heavily traveled commercial route, and we understand that," Moncher said.

Millhouse estimates the total cost of staffing the facility 40 hours a week and paying for utilities would be about $236,000 annually; he said he doesn't know the current costs. He added that the city should request county, state and federal funds to help cover the increased expense.

Councilman Clint Harper said he'd support increasing the hours but questioned the effect of merely expanding daytime operation during the week while the Ventura Freeway station is open around the clock.

"It wouldn't do what some of my colleagues think it would," Harper said. "The truckers are very astute. They know which [stations] are a threat and which ones aren't.... We need full-time inspection stations."

Moncher said there are other reasons truckers choose New Los Angeles Avenue over the Ventura Freeway. They can avoid the steep curves of the Conejo Grade, and the surface street is near farms and rock quarries they need to reach.

"It just seems to me we should be able to give it a try and see if it does work," Millhouse said. "I guess I'd rather try and fail than fail to try."

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