MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Highways has never wavered from its position that it owns all state routes and the city of Morgantown does not have jurisdiction to regulate traffic.
That’s why DOH counsel Jonathan Storage was surprised Wednesday morning when he learned Morgantown City Council approved an ordinance restricting heavy truck traffic on state Route 7 through downtown.
“It’s the Division of Highways position that the DOH owns the road. We care for it. We pay for it and we’re bound to have a uniform system of regulations to make certain that every one has equal access to it,” Storage said on WAJR-AM’s Morgantown AM.
The ordinance approved by Morgantown prohibits some commercial motor vehicles—those with a Class 7 registration or higher that weigh 13 tons or more—from traveling through downtown. Exceptions written into the ordinance include downtown deliveries and emergency vehicles.
City Manager Jeff Mikorski told the council that enforcing the new policy would require signs to be placed along Route 7 indicating the restrictions to truckers. However, Mikorski said the city must obrain approval for the signs from the DOH.
“We told the city that the city does not have the authority to restrict the roadway as they have, yet afterwards they are conceding the fact they have to seek the Division of Highways permission to put up the very signs to restrict the trucks. That seems very puzzling to me,” said Storage. “We’re not going to approve signage if we believe the foundational ordinance is inappropriate given the road they are trying to regulate.”
To enforce the ban, Mikorski said trucks would have to be weighed to see if they were over the legal weight limit. According to Storage, that means the Morgantown ordinance may be encroaching on the state Public Service Commission, which is ultimately charged with issuing citations for overweight trucks.
Storage said if the law were to be upheld it has the potential to set a precedent for chaos.
“It would create a patchwork of opportunities for municipalities all over the state to challenge the Division of Highways and our current way of operating.”
The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect in 90 days.