California bill advances, would ban trucks from Angeles Crest Highway

| 7/15/2009

A California Assembly panel has approved a bill that would ban large trucks along a Los Angeles County highway with grades as steep as 7 percent in some locations.

The effort is spurred by the death of a 12-year-old girl and her father when a truck traveling down a steep grade on state Route 2 (Angeles Crest Highway) struck vehicles and a strip mall April 1 at Foothill Boulevard, where the highway dead-ends. Several others suffered injuries.

According to the Pasadena Star-News, brake problems were blamed for the double-deck car hauler striking the vehicles. The truck’s driver also allegedly ignored warning signs and used a route that is off-limits to heavy trucks.

Shortly after the incident Caltrans temporarily banned all trucks along the winding, two-lane mountain route to buy the Legislature time to approve a permanent ban.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, has offered a bill to do just that. The bill – AB1361 – would prohibit commercial vehicles with three or more axles or a gross vehicle weight of five tons or more from SR 2 between Big Pines Highway and Interstate 210 in La Canada Flintridge, northwest of Pasadena.

Violators would face fines of at least $1,000.

Exceptions to the ban would be made for trucks delivering to or from locations within La Canada Flintridge or locations accessible only from SR 2.

The Assembly approved the bill by unanimous consent this spring. It has since advanced from the Senate Appropriations Committee to the full Senate for consideration. If approved there, it would move back to the Assembly for approval of changes before advancing to the governor’s desk.

Portantino said action to ban trucks on the route is long overdue.

“The city has repeatedly asked Caltrans to prohibit truck traffic on SR 2 until necessary safety improvements to this state highway could be put in place,” Portantino said in a written statement.

He said since Caltrans has refused to either prohibit truck traffic or install necessary safety measures, it was time to pursue legislation to force their hand.

Truck drivers have grave safety concerns about trying to negotiate the treacherous canyon road.

Owner-operator and OOIDA member Tom Fidger of Littlerock, CA, said the highway is a useful shortcut between the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles but truckers have to be smart about navigating through it.

“There are a lot of people over that road who pay attention to what they’re doing. They take their time and go through there at the speed limit or a little less. Then there are one, two or three knuckleheads out there who think they’re Mario Andretti, and it causes problems,” Fidger told Land Line.

Fidger said the highway is an asset. He would like to see improvements made to bring it up to modern standards and make it safer for truckers and others to navigate. But he acknowledged that the state’s current financial situation makes that unlikely.

“They need to do something with it, but the state is broke. The legislature has spent us into a hole,” he said.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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