Resolution 2013-01…Tollway Bridges

  • Resolution 2013-01…Tollway Bridges

    Resolution 2013-01…Tollway Bridges

    In 2008, the Illinois Tollway Authority (ITA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced that permitting for overweight vehicles on IDOT maintained highways which cross over structures owned by the ITA may require ITA permission.  The tragic August 2007 bridge collapse of I-35W in Minneapolis, MN caused a reaction of state transportation authorities nationwide to quickly examine and rate structures under their jurisdiction.

    It was during these evaluations when the ITA discovered their legal responsibility for the structures over their highways.  The maintenance authority, routing and pavement which traverse the structure may be under the jurisdiction of another unit of government, but the structure itself, along with the liability if it fails, rested with the ITA.

    The ITA evaluated all of its structures, and many were found to be compliant under rules and weight limitations of “routine” permitting by IDOT.  However, IDOT “superload” permits were not compliant with sixty-six ITA structure ratings.  To compensate, the ITA began requiring a separate load analysis for any superload permit which crossed certain structures, even if an overweight permit had been granted by the permit authority of the traversing highway.  If the weight and axle spacings were found to be within the tolerances by the ITA, permission was granted for the configuration for one year to cross ITA structures.  If the load was not within tolerance, a different route would have to be obtained.  In essence, two permits were required for the same stretch of highway.

    While this rerouting around ITA structures is unarguably necessary to prevent a tragedy like in Minneapolis, it has created an undue hardship for the heavy-haul carrier industry.  After the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association was created, IDOT leadership enlisted the ITEA help give the carrier industry time to adjust to the changes before enforcement began.  The ITEA willingly agreed and promoted warnings only for more than a year as IDOT continued an educational campaign within the carrier industry.

    IDOT continued to issue permits as usual for their highways which crossed over ITA weight limited structures, but began adding a disclaimer on the permit that tollway permission must be granted before the vehicle can cross.  IDOT also included this in their administrative rules and added it to the OPER993 form.

    Eventually, enforcement did begin.  As in many other issues related to truck laws and regulations in Illinois, the proper method for enforcement was not entirely clear.  If a superload crossed a tollway structure without permission, should the vehicle only be allowed maximum legal weights under the Illinois Vehicle Code, or should the vehicle be allowed the maximum routine permit weight of 120,000 pounds?  Should an overweight violation be written or should it be cited as a violation of permit?  If human error resulted in IDOT failing to list the tollway admonishment on the permit, should any violation be cited at all?

    With a lack of any binding case law, the legalities of enforcement on this issue are left to the interpretations of many.  If the truth of law is so abstract to not only police officers, attorneys and regulatory officials, how is it equitable that only the carrier industry is being held accountable by fines in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars?

    It is because of this subjective reasoning that the ITEA hereby resolves to aggressively work alongside any and all regulatory agencies that have a stake in this matter in a concerted effort to bring resolution to the problem.

    Protecting life and infrastructure are a foundation of the ITEA, and enforcement is a means to that end.  This does not preclude government from doing its due diligence in providing the police clear statute to enforce such critical violations, and the carrier industry clear understanding of complicated laws prior to making overweight movements.

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    Comments (2)

    • Armida Baccega

      Based upon my 25+ years teaching Overweight Enforcement I present the following for consideration. While many Chapter 15 laws were unclear, the recent rewrite following the change in the maximum weights has simplified it greatly. The problems exist when training in Chapter 15 does not include at least a brief history lesson and a knowledge of the “Intent” of the dimensional laws as they evolve.

      In the case of IDOT and ITA, as we have always been taught, the Tollway is a Private Entity. We have also been taught that IDOT has a firm grasp on the actual weight limitations of their roads as well as the height of underpasses when issuing any permit. So with that in mind, ITA should have a permitting section for roads under their “legally defined” jurisdiction or they should request a Bridge Study from the State and erect signs just as required by any other Non-State entity.

      Many years ago we used to teach with a gentleman named Howard Levine. Howard was employed by IDOT for the specific purpose of clarifying jurisdictional issues – and he was GREAT! He loved that stuff and actually made it interesting! From Howard I learned that when a Village/City annexes land adjacent to an established Village/City, it takes over responsibility for the entire dividing road. A similar question arises when one constructs a road over an existing road OR when an existing road is raised so a new road can be constructed under it. Those are Jurisdictional issues that are far too complicated for my little brain and should be left to Howard and others like him.

      For clarification and in response to the issues raised in the article:

      #1. “In essence, two permits were required for the same stretch of highway.”

      In respect to issue #1, only 1 permit is required for a stretch of roadway – the one from the entity that maintains it. That has always been clearly stated on BT 993. (Rule of Thumb – whose name is on the side of the snow plow scraping the road because that is the road owner).

      #2 “As in many other issues related to truck laws and regulations in Illinois, the proper method for enforcement was not entirely clear.”

      In this case the proper method of enforcement should have been clear. If there was no permit issued by the owner of the road then an overweight to the legal limit of the road had occurred and should be warned/cited.

      #3 “Should an overweight violation be written or should it be cited as a violation of permit?”

      In any case a Violation of Permit may only be written where a valid permit exists and its specs are violated. If one travels over a stretch of road in violation of the legal weights in the state, without a permit from the owner of the road, that is a violation of Chapter 15 only.

      Hence the problem covered in this article is confusing apples with oranges, one has nothing to do with the other. One has to do with a violation of Chapter 15, the other with whether or not the proper entity is issuing the permit. The easy answer to this jurisdictional issue is to request a Bridge Study which is a function of the State. If weight is a concern, all entities will be on the same page once the study is completed and the State can post the bridge.

      Police Officers need only concern themselves with the application of the law that exists. A citation for any law is based on a violation of that law – not whether the humans involved like it. When a permit is issued by the maintaining entity and the vehicle is within the permit limitations – there is no violation.

      Any police officer who writes a ticket improperly – because someone told him to – has an entirely different matter to contend with than the complexity of Chapter 15. Thoughts?

      ~A

    • Bryce Baker

      Thanks for the comment Armida! Glad you like the changes to the rwrite of 15-111…the leadership of the ITEA worked hard with various State agencies and the trucking industry to make that happen.

      Your response is the very reason why the article was written, and the reason why resolution to the problem is being sought in the very short-term. You may very well be correct. However, so may be the defense attorney representing the trucker who has been cited. So may be the police officer who cited the trucker. The fact is, the only enforcement opinions we have are not binding. Many different parties with a stake in this have conflicting opinions. So who has the right enforcement answer? No one.

      The point of the article and the below comments are not to say myself, the ITEA, or anyone else has the right answer. The point of the article was to expose the necessity of finding a sooner-rather-than-later solution to this issue. The penalities are incredibly severe for mistakes because of a turf war between two units of government.

      The tollway is not to blame. IDOT is not to blame. The cops and the truckers are not to blame. Everyone is just trying to do their job and protect their interests. What is to blame is the process. The reality is the only one losing in the blame game is the trucker, and to the tune of fines as high as $60,000. All because of a vague, unclear and conflicting permitting process in a very unique situation.

      In regards to you comments above, here are some thoughts:

      The tollway is for sure a private entity and performed inspections/evaluations of all their structures as described in the article. 66 such structures were found to be compatible with permits issued by IDOT as routine permits, and do not require a separate analysis for any complaint vehicle(s) to cross. Any vehicle(s) oeprating on an IDOT superload crossing any of those 66 structures requires an individual analysis before permission is granted. Any structure they own not part of the 66 does not require any individual analysis and the vehicle(s) may operate in compliance with the IDOT permit.

      #1 – Nice old school reference to the “BT 993” 🙂 However, you are somewhat incorrect in context. Who maintains the road and who has permit authority are not always the same. Many local units of government have maintenance contracts with IDOT and plow the road, plant the flowers, cut the grass etc, but they are not the permit authority. IDOT still has permit authority over their highways regardless of who maintains them.

      Also, the point of the article to emphasize that regarding tollway structures with IDOT traversing highways, there is essence two permits required. This is a unique situation that has arisen the last few years where dual permissions must be granted, in certain conditions, from two different agencies…for the same stretch of road.

      #2 – Correct. The method for enforcement is not clear…hence the controversy, the industry blowback, the imminent courtroom trials, and the article.

      #3 – Sort of. No one doubts that certain vehicle(s) must obtain a permission, or permit, from the tollway over the 66 structures. However, there is a case to be made that if a vehicle has been granted permission from IDOT to cross the IDOT section of the road, the admonishments on the OPER 993 from are not statutorily binding to write an overweight.

      To “void” a valid permit and knock it back to legal weights, under statute, can only occur in two situations. First, if the permit is fraudulent, or second, if the load is divisible. Any other violation of a condition of permit (such as the tollway admonishments on the OPER 993) does not void the valid permit, but violates it under 15-301(j). But this is for an argument for the defense…who knows if it will hold water, but I believe it has merit.

      The proper and fair solution to this problem is for the tollway to allow IDOT permit authority for highways under IDOT control that cross over structures owned by the tollway. The tollway can feel free to dictate what the weight limitations are, but only one permit should have to be issued. The duplicate permitting over the tollway structures is unreasonable and unfair.