Overloaded and underfunded - Channel 2 investigation of weigh stations on Oklahoma roads

The plan: Build 8 new weigh stations across Okla.

TULSA - The state of Oklahoma spends millions of your tax dollars on road and bridges every year, while some of the state's weigh stations sit unused.

A 2NEWS investigation found a full fix to the problem could still be a long way off.

It's not just the love of the open road that gets trucker Clyde Davis going.

"Sometimes I'll get in the spirit and I'll be rocking and preaching and praising the Lord," said Davis.

It's his gospel music. We caught up with him at a truck stop in Tulsa.

As he drives he says he pops in his favorite CD, "A little Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace," he said. And when he's passing through the Sooner state, he say it's smooth sailing, "We like coming through Oklahoma. We ain't gotta deal with them," said Davis.

He's talking about inspectors at weigh stations.

2NEWS has been tracking the state's weigh stations for five years, and since then the situation hasn't changed much.

There are six older weigh stations open in the state. There are also eight portable scales that inspectors can use, but only one of the older weigh stations is at a point of entry, meaning, for example, a truck coming in from western Oklahoma could, "Unload, turn around and go back without ever seeing any scales," said Representative Guy Liebmann, (R)-Oklahoma City.

In fact, some weigh stations are in such bad shape, they've been closed down for years and the ones that are open, haven't been maintained well in decades.

Poor lighting prevents some from even being open at night, but getting weighed is the law for truckers.

If a truck is overweight, "They would wear out the roadway prematurely and so the investment we've made would not have the useful life that it should have," said Oklahoma Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Gary Evans.

Four years ago, the Corporation Commission started collecting funds for a fix. The plan is to build eight new weigh stations at ports of entry in the state and one portable station.

Click on the image for a larger size. Phone and tablet users should copy and paste http://bit.ly/OKpoe into your mobile browser to see the ports of entry.

ODOT says it will cost $100 million dollars for everything. They'll be high tech and efficient. They can weigh more trucks, faster.

The stations are funded by a fee that wholesalers pay for gas, charging them a penny per gallon. But, that caps out at $500,000 a month, until the fund reaches $51 million. Again, that's half of what's needed.

"The funding commitment that's put forth today is not going to fund all nine locations," said Evans.

It's something ODOT says they've been telling lawmakers for years. This session, one lawmaker claimed he had a solution.

"We're going to appropriate $500,000 per month, " said Liebmann.

But that's how much is already appropriated so instead what Guy Liebmann's bill actually does, is change some wording so it guarantees, in writing, that half a million monthly goes to weigh stations and doesn't go somewhere else. Still, no new money has been added and that means getting all nine weigh stations, "Will take a while," said Liebmann.

As for funding weigh stations further down the road, "Anything is possible, but let's do one step at a time. This is such a step in the right direction. We'll see how it works," said Liebmann.

Some progress is being made.

A new weigh station near the Kansas border off I-35 just opened up at the end of April. Another one near the Texas border off I-40 is set to open in a couple of months. However, those only two of the eight new permanent weigh stations, and one new portable unit, the state has planned to add.

The jury is still out on whether the existing older weigh stations will stay open. Still, until more are in place there's always the concern about protecting our investment.

Something Davis says can't be blamed on the truckers.

"Most truckers, they wouldn't really take heavy, heavy load because they know, they know they're going to get stopped if they go through a weigh station," said Davis.

So far the fund has brought in $22 million, that's almost half of the total that's been allocated, but less than a fourth of all the money that's needed.

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