Truck route a concern for local resident

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 2, 1999

LAPLACE – The roar of scrap-steel trucks as they enter Bayou Steel means money in the bank for the industry – and headaches for nearby residents.

Darnell Triche on Grand Coulee Road is one of those residents concerned about the scrap trucks as they duck the scales on Interstate 10 and Airline Highway by zipping along River Road by way of Hemlock and Main streets.

“It’s a 45-mph speed limit, but when they’re going through at 80, it’s a problem,” she said.

The problem is such that she’s taken to driving her school-age children to school rather than risk them riding a school bus. One attends St. CharlesCatholic High School and the other attends St. Joan of Arc. “I’m scared fortheir lives,” she said.

Triche has several horror stories of speeding scrap trucks slicing across lanes in River Road’s curves, one which left her sister-in-law run off the road and into a ditch. “I’m a prisoner in my own home,” she lamented.Bayou Steel accepts scrap iron and steel and remelts and refines it for new use. However, according to company officials, the company does notown or control those drivers who deliver scrap to the plant.

“Bayou Steel says they can’t control where the trucks go,” Triche continued. “I say they can.”Hank Vasquez, vice-president of human resources at Bayou Steel, said, “They’re not our trucks. We tell people we can’t control them.”Locally, hands are tied as to the truckers’ behavior. Louisiana Highway3217, known also as Bayou Steel Road, was intended for the scrap trucks’ use, connecting Airline Highway and the plant.

However, trucks routinely take alternate routes to avoid the truck scales, including CC Road on the east and Main and Hemlock streets to the west.

Triche said not all trucks drive dangerously or avoid the scales, as she remembers following a driver who carefully stayed in his lane, traveling at 40 mph, adding, “If all the drivers would do that, it’d be so much more peaceful.”Maj. Mack Linton of the state highway department’s Weights and StandardsDivision, which supervises the truck scales, admitted the problem is a constant one at Bayou Steel.

However, he emphasized the alternate routes used are also state highways and the truckers have every right to use them.

Linton added that two years ago he had 36 mobile weight-scale units which performed spot checks from time to time. Now, those units areunder the control of the Louisiana State Police.

However, Linton continued, it’s hard to catch the overloaded vehicles, as when a mobile unit comes out the CB radios alert other drivers and their effectiveness nosedives. On a recent sweep, only 1 percent of thosebelieved to be in violation were actually caught.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Linton concluded. “It always has been.”He added that should local officials officially ask the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for engineers to assess the roads and possibly post their weight limits or limit the number of axles, such signs may have some effect.

Meanwhile, Triche said she has tried to interest local officials in the problem and enlist their aid.

Parish Councilman Perry Bailey offered several suggestions, including a redesign of Bayou Steel’s front gate, to where a large truck cannot make the turn coming from the direction of River Road.

“That’s something I’ll definitely bring up,” Bailey said. He also expressedconcern about drainage at some River Road curves which could be a hazard to traffic, especially at McReine Road.

“If we save one life, we’ve done our job,” Bailey commented. “We need toget everybody to the table on this, and together, we can try and solve this problem.”Triche, however, was more pessimistic when she said, “I guess it’ll start when they read my obituary or my kids’ obituary in the paper.”

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