Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, most heavy trucks have been prohibited from traveling on U.S. Highway 93 across the Hoover Dam in northwestern Arizona.
But truckers who operate strictly within a 75-mile radius of the dam were issued special permits – as long as they weren't hauling hazmat. About 570 trucking operations hold the permits on fleets of 10 trucks or less.
Now, the agency that oversees the dam is considering charging the permit holders a $500 annual fee per truck.
Bob Walsh, a spokesman for the F ederal Bureau of Reclamation's Lower Colorado Dams Office , told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio that the security costs for operating the truck permit program total $250,000 annually, and that the government stopped appropriating that money last year.
Now, Walsh said, the costs are being passed along to businesses that benefit from the security program.
Walsh said the $500 fees would only last a few years, since a new bridge that will carry highway traffic is scheduled to open in 2008.
OOIDA member Mike Doyle of Kingman, AZ, hauls decorative rock and holds a special permit to cross the Hoover Dam. He said a $500 fee would be just one more significant expense on top of fuel costs, taxes, tags and the like.
But Doyle's main fear is that many truckers would simply stop using the dam and that the security costs would fall entirely on those willing to pay the fee.
“So my thinking is, let's say they only get 60 or 70 percent of the permit holders to cross the dam,” Doyle said. “That being the case, their shortfall's going to be worse, in which case, what prevents them from saying, ‘Well, we miscalculated … so now we're going to charge you $1,000 per truck to make up for the shortfall.' ”
Walsh said a final decision on the fees hasn't been made yet. If they are assessed, they won't go into effect before Jan. 1, 2007.
– By Reed Black, staff writer