The current proposed route plan for overweight trucks might give growers in Mexico an unfair economic advantage, according to a local farmer.
Tim Dunn, owner of Dunn Grain Co., said the plan gives “economic advantage” to Mexican growers over local ones.
“It would be cheaper to haul from Mexico than Dome Valley,” Dunn told the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Board on Thursday.
He suggested the designated route for overweight trucks traveling from Mexico be restricted to San Luis, prompting the board to question whether it should rework the current proposed map.
A state law adopted in 2012 requires the Arizona Department of Transportation to share with counties and border cities the fee revenues collected from overweight trucks that cross into Arizona from Mexico. SB 1332 requires that a vehicle weighing from 80,000 to 90,800 pounds must obtain a special permit before crossing into the state.
Each single-use permit costs $75, with ADOT receiving 50 percent, Yuma County 25 percent and Yuma and San Luis sharing the remaining 25 percent.
“In the past, ADOT would keep the entire fee, and we would be stuck with the road maintenance costs associated with allowing overweight trucks,” County Administrator Robert Pickels explained last year.
As a result, the cities and the county restricted overweight trucks from using their roads, forcing those vehicles to either travel west to Mexicali or east to Nogales.
But with the new law, the entities reconsidered those restrictions.
Frank Rascon of the Greater Yuma Port Authority and Greater Yuma Port Users said the whole purpose of the plan is to attract new customers and keep a competitive edge with Nogales.
On Thursday, the board was asked to add 16 more sections to the tentative route along State Route 195, which includes San Luis, Yuma and Yuma County.
ADOT hopes to implement the program in mid-May, said Paul Patane, ADOT Yuma district engineer.
While ADOT does not approve the routes used by overweight trucks - the local jurisdictions approve these routes - the agency implements the permitting process that legally allows trucks to use these corridors.
"ADOT is committed to close collaboration and coordination with local officials on issues like truck routes, but we are not the approving authority for overweight trucks on local roads," Timothy Tait, ADOT assistant communication director, said.
However, County Supervisor Russell McCloud called Dunn's statement a “compelling argument ... I had no idea of that potential.”
“It's the first time I hear about it,” Greg Ferguson, supervisors chairman, said.
Rascon, who came up with the original route, noted that the intent was not to leave anybody out. But it wouldn't be “bad” if it only included San Luis. He suggested keeping SR 195 because of the infrastructure already in place.
The map could be amended in the future, Rascon added.
McCloud also expressed concern with street maintenance. “It will cost the county a fortune to keep up.”
Patane noted that the county will get funding and said all roads on the route should be evaluated to make sure they can handle the traffic. But McCloud called the $18 per permit the county would receive a “drop in the bucket.”
The board directed staff to have the Technical Advisory Committee review the route with their concerns in mind, while making sure it's fair to all players. The board also asked for the opportunity to take it back to Yuma, San Luis and Yuma County for further discussion.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.