Nation's capital to place 'virtual weigh station' in interstate pavement

| 3/24/2005

Starting soon, truckers headed into the nation’s capital could have their rig’s weight checked – even if they don’t pull into a weigh station.

The District of Columbia Department of Transportation announced this week that it would implant weight sensors directly into the paved surface of the Anacostia Freeway, which carries Interstate 295 into the city. The sensors will allow law-enforcement officers to issue tickets on the spot.

The Washington Times reported that the in-road sensors are the first of their kind in the country.

The sensors will be placed close to the Blue Plains water treatment facility, near the southern end of the district, Bill Rice, a spokesman for the DC Department of Transportation, told Land Line. The new, high-tech sensors will join the district’s three current weigh stations in checking trucks for overweight loads.

They will cover all three lanes of the highway in each direction, and will be close to pull-off lanes designed to allow the police to pull trucks that register as overweight safely off the road.

Theoretically, the sensors could operate 24 hours a day. However, Rice said the sensors would operate only when an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department is there to issue tickets. The exact hours of operation are “still to be determined,” Rice said.

The fines for overweight trucks in the district vary, but Rice said they start at $100 for the first 5,000 pounds overweight, with 6 cents charged for every pound over that figure. Trucks at the site of the sensors are limited to 80,000 pounds.

At $1 million, the in-road sensors cost more than the city’s last weigh station, at New York Avenue, which cost $800,000. However, Rice said that station employs portable scales that must be brought in, rather than permanent scales such as those used at the Anacostia Freeway site.

Construction on the sensors has just started, and they are expected to be operational by spring or early summer.

Rice said the city had experienced problems with overweight trucks, but not in particular at the site where the sensors are being installed.

“This is one highway where we can build in a pullover, the area for the trucks,” he said. “We have enough room on both sides of the highway, so we have the enforcement area and the detection mechanisms in the same place.”

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor