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Enhancing truck safety & fighting state blight
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Want to see what $250,000 plus in government waste looks like?

Travel to Austin Road where the Frontage Road intersects it on the eastern side of the Highway 99 interchange.

There you will find a park-n-ride commuter lot put in place 15 years ago when Highway 99 was widened to six lanes between Manteca and Ripon.

The commute lot in the middle of nowhere was the brainchild of central planners in Sacramento. They decreed the widening project required a park-n-ride lot.

There was no push from local government or even commuters for the parking lot. The state simply deemed it necessary and built it.

In the first year, you would see maybe one or two cars a day parked in the lot designed to accommodate close to 80 vehicles. But after auto burglars discovered the remote location and started plying their trade, no one parked in the lot.

Then testosterone driven teens and young male adults discovered that the remote location made it ideal to burn rubber doing donuts in the wee hours of the morning. Then they started drinking and smashing glass beer bottles and using the massive asphalt parking lot as a canvass for graffiti.

Finally the state barricaded the entrance to the parking lot.

Today it stands as state created blight.

California — like most other states — has a shortage of truck parking made worse when federal laws required truck drivers to stop driving every eight hours and call it quits after being behind-the-wheel 11 hours during a 24-hour period.

Seventy-percent of the truck drivers surveyed along Interstate 5 in the spring of 2012 said they tried to stop at a truck stop along the freeway but found they were full. University of California at Berkeley researchers also found more than half of all truckers said that they tried to find spaces at truck stops every other day to comply with federal safety laws regarding length of time on the road but were unable to find open spots.

This forces truckers to hunt for secluded spots to park such as freeway ramps and shoulders, behind stores and at far ends of shopping malls. None are legal options including the use of freeway ramps and shoulders. But CHP officers rarely move them out of reluctance of putting sleepy drivers on the road.

A 2013 web survey prompted responses from almost 4,000 truckers. Four out of 10 said it took them nearly an hour on average to find parking for the night.

Trucks and the men and women that drive them are vital to our economy.  Trucks carried some 9.7 billion tons of goods in 2013. That represented 81 percent of that year’s $682 billion of freight business. The slogan truckers like repeating — “if you bought it a truck brought it” — is true. At some point virtually every consumer good required a truck to get it to a store. Trucks are also as vital in the delivery of rare materials and parts in the manufacturing process.

We need to start acting that truckers matter. The safety requirements made a bad situation worse when it came to parking trucks.

In the coming months, Manteca is breaking ground on improvements to the Austin Road off and on ramps as well as Moffat Boulevard between Austin Road and Woodward Avenue. It is being done to open development of the 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park.

Development of the business park is being spurred on by the growing importance of the Manteca-Lathrop-Tracy-Stockton area for distribution and logistics that can serve both the Bay Area and Sacramento market as well as reach down into the Fresno area within hours. Trucking provides a significant amount of head-of-household jobs in the Manteca-Lathrop area and makes other jobs possible. Even the Tesla jobs in Lathrop wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for trucks.

The city should encourage Caltrans to look at converting the park-n-ride lot that sits unused into a truck parking facility.

As development occurs, the remoteness of the location will be minimized. However the development on the table would not be conducive to encouraging commuters to park at the site especially when other park-n-ride lots in much more high profile locations such as at the Wal-Mart center and Big League Dreams sports complex are either at or close to transit stops for buses.

Given the amount of trucks that use Highway 99 the use of the state-created blight at Austin Road as parking for truckers dealing with federally imposed safety driving time limits makes sense. It can easily be signed for truckers along Highway 99. Granted, it would be a drop in the bucket for the overall need but it would be a start.

It would also effectively eliminate a visual eye sore that stands as mute testimony to government waste.