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State finds alternative to demolished I-95 weigh station in Waterford

Waterford — In September of 2018,  the driver of a Chevrolet SUV crashed into the weigh station off Interstate 95 southbound here.

While the man sustained minor injuries, the scale house was not so lucky. It was demolished and has been vacant since.

Department of Motor Vehicles Deputy Commissioner Tony Guerrera said the DMV has instead been using roaming SUVs with portable scales to make up for the lack of a weigh station. In fact, the new arrangement may actually be a positive, Guerrera said.

"As sad as it was that the accident took out the station, it enabled us to be more proactive in regards to making sure that our roadways have the proper trucks on it with the proper weights," Guerrera said.

The roaming DMV inspectors look for trucks driving erratically, speeding or with possible safety issues. If they pull a truck over, they then call for the portable scales and while the bus or truck is being weighed, they scrutinize the vehicle to make sure it meets safety regulations.

According to Guerrera, the DMV has also received federal grant money for a virtual weigh station, which is a system built into the highway. The amount of the grant could not be immediately determined. 

When a truck or bus goes over the virtual station, it automatically signals the weight of the vehicle. The DMV would not reveal its location. 

"Every time these trucks go by, it sends a signal to a computer that shows how much weight is on there, and therefore it alerts our inspectors if it's overweight," Guerrera said. "'Such and such was traveling 70 miles an hour with a weight of X on 95. He just went by this, we'll cut him off at exit such and such,' and we get him."

Guerrera said the loss of a weigh station hasn't meant a loss of state revenue as internal DMV numbers indicate inspections are up because of the new operation, he said.

While the state Department of Transportation is in charge of the weigh station buildings, the DMV carries out inspections. DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said there are no current plans for a new, physical weigh station where the old one used to be.

"It wasn't heavily utilized by DMV in the first place because they do those roving types of weigh stations. They believe that's the most effective enforcement tool," Nursick said. "There's no push to rebuild it. If there's no strategic purpose for them, we won't rebuild it."

If the DMV told the DOT it needed a new weigh station, the DOT would work to make that happen, Nursick said.

Nursick was unsure of the estimated cost of damage. He said DOT didn't have an estimate on how much it would cost to replace, either, because the department never seriously considered replacement.

The DMV is pleased with the current setup and does not foresee a need for a new building, which means the weigh station location will remain vacant for the time being.

"With the federal grant putting that virtual weigh station in, why would you want to spend more money for a building when you don't even need it?" Guerrera asked.

When the accident occurred last year, portable DMV units were deployed and the station was almost immediately demolished.

The state is now operating weigh stations in Danbury, Greenwich, Middletown, Union and one rather than two in Waterford. When passing a weigh station, "Trucks and buses are required to stop to be weighed and inspected for any safety violations," per the DMV website.

Weigh station reports from the DMV show that between Jan. 1 and June 1, 2019, the first full report following the loss of the station, more than 37,000 vehicles were weighed in Danbury, 52,000 in Greenwich, 27,000 in Middletown, 117,000 in Union and 25,000 in Waterford northbound. A total of 2,836 total vehicles were inspected, and 5,065 total citations were issued. A total of $1,550,898 in potential fines were levied.

The final report before the loss of the weigh station, between January and June of 2018, shows more than 6,000 total vehicles weighed in Danbury, 60,000 in Greenwich, 35,000 in Middletown, 97,000 in Union, 20,000 Waterford northbound and 223 Waterford southbound. The DMV carried out 2,777 total inspections, issued 3,888 total citations and levied $1,154,895 in potential fines.

s.spinella@theday.com

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