Morgantown Heavy Truck Traffic Ban Delayed
In a unanimous vote last night, Morgantown City Council decided to delay implementation of an ordinance that would ban certain truck traffic in the city’s downtown district.
Morgantown’s heavy truck ban is supposed to go into effect December 1st (ninety days after it was passed in September). But in order to enforce the ordinance, signs need to be in place along state route 7 which cuts through town—signs that require approval from the state’s Department of Highways. The city submitted a proposal for signs several weeks ago, but the Division of Highways hasn’t responded.
The city council’s lead legal counsel, Bob Bastress, advised the group to delay enforcement until either:
- They receive permission from DOH, and signs are in place.
- They receive a favorable ruling from December 15th court hearing, and then get permission from DOH and signs in place.
The Division of Highways has been more or less silent on the issue since August when, in response to inquiries made by the City of Morgantown, the DOH said according to its interpretation, state code doesn’t allow for local management of roads within the state road system. “Therefore,” a DOH letter reads, “without the permission of the Commissioner [of Highways], any such municipal regulation would be invalid.”
“From their past statements, I don’t anticipate the DOH giving permission for the signage unless they’re told they have to by a court,” Batress said.
A court hearing is already scheduled to settle the heart of the matter. A lawsuit was recently filed by two companies that would be directly affected by the ban, Shinston-based Nuzum Trucking Company and Kingwood-based Preston Contractors. The companies are seeking an injunction to stop the ban from going into effect. A motion was made for summary judgment on the state code in question, and that hearing will be held in Charleston, Bastress said, on December 15th.
Bastress, who also teaches about Constitutional Law at the West Virginia University Law School, reiterated during the meeting that it was his opinion that the council is well within its authority to regulate truck traffic in Morgantown.