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What's Driving You Crazy?: Tall poles on Highway 85 south of Platteville at Fort Vasquez

Posted at 5:03 AM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 08:24:29-04

Mary Ellen from Platteville writes, “What's driving you crazy? Ton of construction on US 85 near Fort Vasquez. I'm curious what are the things on the street poles. Cameras? Toll readers?”

The tons of construction, Mary Ellen, is for a new way to weigh commercial vehicles rolling down Highway 85 in Weld County. The Colorado State Patrol is installing what they say is the first-of-its-kind virtual weigh-in-motion station in Colorado. When complete, this fixed virtual weigh-in-motion station will allow the troopers at the Port of Entry station at Fort Vasquez to record data on commercial motor vehicles without having the driver stop at a physical weigh station. This data includes the weight of the vehicle, the vehicle registration, and safety credentials.

CDOT says they have been using non-virtual weigh-in-motion equipment at the Dumont Port-of-Entry facility as well as at the Loma Port-of-Entry in the Grand Junction area since 2016.

For newcomers, Fort Vasquez is the site of an 1835 fur-trading fort that lies right in the middle of US 85 just south of the town of Platteville between the north and southbound lanes. The fort is currently closed for renovation and repairs to the facility.

On the south side of the fort is a Colorado Port of Entry station. According to the State Patrol, the Port of Entries exists to encourage and promote the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles in a manner that safeguards the motoring public while protecting the state's infrastructure through uniform practices and enforcement procedures.

“The virtual weigh stations save time by allowing the Colorado State Patrol to check these requirements on commercial motor vehicle carriers without inconveniencing the carriers by having to pull into a weigh station,” says Josh Lewis with the Colorado State Patrol. “It also improves the overall safety on Highway 85 because it allows the patrol to follow up with carriers who have safety rating issues or other compliance issues.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation says these types of weigh-in-motion stations helped curb the problem of some truck drivers with overweight vehicles bypassing stationary weigh stations to avoid being cited for weight violations or motor carrier safety violations.

According to Mettler Toledo, a company that manufactures, sells, and services instruments that detect, measure, and weighs all sizes of vehicles, there are several types of weigh-in-motion scale systems that can measure just over-the-road axle weight compliance up to full monitoring and analysis of vehicles along the highway. The company says the technology allows for identification of vehicles at highway speeds for inspection without hindering traffic flow and accurately capturing axle weights on-site to ensure over-the-road compliance.

“We don’t want folks running overweight because they affect the infrastructure,” says Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. “With this technology, you can better monitor remotely the weights of trucks and if you are seeing some abuses you can apply a mobile team out there and get it under control.”

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Fulton tells me the major reason they have been supportive of the virtual weigh-in-motion technology, specifically on Highway 85 at Fort Vasquez is to keep drivers safe.

“The way they used to pull over to the left was problematic. We like wider and safer spaces for the drivers and for the troopers. This location will be much safer now that drivers aren’t pulling over from the left lane and then trying to get up to highway speed in the fast lane.”

Port of Entry (POE) officers used to have commercial vehicle drivers pull over and park on physical pads that measured the weight of the commercial vehicle. That process was time consuming and potentially dangerous as trucks would line up in the left lane on highway 85 waiting to be weighed and inspected. The new weigh-in-motion equipment eliminates those issues by allowing the POE inspection process to happen at highway speed.

The existing POE building in the middle of Highway 85 has been updated to house the components for the virtual weigh-in-motion station. The Platteville station has been quiet for about nine years, not operating as an active Port of Entry station with troopers since before July 2012.

After the virtual weigh-in-motion station comes online, the State Patrol tells me they might have someone work from that location occasionally as there are offices still available in the building. However, Port of Entry troopers will not actively interact with Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers there.

This new equipment and installation is being done through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Innovative Technology Deployment Grant program for under $1 million.

Separately from the work for the new weigh-in-motion station, CDOT is finishing up a major paving project along Highway 85. The paving work started this spring along four miles of northbound and southbound Highway 85 including next to Fort Vasquez.

Most of the CDOT highway project is finished including paving Highway 85 with a fresh, new asphalt surface, upgrading the guardrail, replacing the bridge railing over the Platte Valley Canal, and installing new safety enhancements like rumble strips and roadside delineators.

What will take some more time is the improvements to a ditch south of Weld County Road 24. In late October, U.S. 85 will be reduced to one lane in each direction between WCR 22 and WCR 24 for approximately one month while crews remove and replace a siphon pipe and drainage system underneath the highway. The work will be performed in phases and requires several traffic shifts to place the pipe across the highway.

Coulson Excavating Company plans to complete the ditch work this year. Depending on weather and asphalt availability, the contractor team may need to return briefly in spring 2022 to complete final paving near the ditch and place permanent lane striping.

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