Morgantown, W.Va., delays action to ban heavy trucks

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Monday, November 24, 2014

The city council in Morgantown, W.Va., passed an ordinance in September that would ban Class 7 and 8 trucks from the city’s downtown core starting Dec. 1. But with a lawsuit from two trucking companies pending, and with the state Division of Highways refusing to redesignate highways to incorporate a truck ban, the council recently voted to delay the ordinance.

Council members voted 7-0 on Wednesday, Nov. 19, to delay the truck ban at the advice of legal counsel until the Kanawha County Circuit Court rules on a lawsuit filed in October by two trucking companies.

The court has scheduled a hearing on the lawsuit for Dec. 15.

During Morgantown’s current and previous attempts to ban trucks dating back to 2006, the Division of Highways has refused to redesignate state Route 7 with new maximum weights or issue new signs to Morgantown that designate a truck ban.

The driving force behind the truck ban is a group called Safe Streets Morgantown, which cites the city of Morgantown’s 2013 comprehensive plan in saying that the mere presence of large trucks downtown has “evoked frustration from many respondents” and that the community “wants to see truck traffic rerouted around the city and prohibited within the city core.”

Safe Streets Morgantown posts on its social media pages that trucks are to blame for downtown traffic problems. “Is it safe for pedestrians to walk in the crosswalk in between these trucks,” the group’s Facebook page asks. “Is it safe to breathe in the exhaust from these trucks as they slowly make their way through downtown?”

A group of residents has sought a truck ban in Morgantown for at least eight years. The truck ban would allow local deliveries but calls for law enforcement to issue $500 tickets to “through trucks” Class 7 and 8 that do not stop or deliver in town.

Truckers, and those supporting truckers, have fought back in social media comments. “OK, then,” one truck supporter stated. “No deliveries into Morgantown. Problem solved. Don’t cry when you run out of toilet paper or food, either.”

Nuzum Trucking Co. of Shinnston, W.Va., and Preston Contractors Inc. of Kingwood, W.Va., filed a lawsuit against the Morgantown City Council in October, seeking injunctive relief. The lawsuit claims the city council has usurped the power of the state Division of Highways to designate roadways.

The lawsuit says the Morgantown City Council does not acknowledge “clear legislative limitations prohibiting a municipality from regulating state highways and state truck routes in intrastate commerce,” and that Morgantown has “unquestionably exceeded the lawful authority vested in a municipality through unlawful and unconstitutional actions and omissions that directly and adversely affect (the) plaintiff’s business enterprises.”

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