Garfield County is willing to consider a request from oil and gas haulers to amend its overweight and oversize road permit regulations to allow permits for certain types of loads that now must be divided into separate, smaller loads.
However, county commissioners also want to find out how much that could cost taxpayers over time to upgrade some county roads to meet new standards and to fix roads and bridges that could become damaged by the heavier trucks.
Commissioners voted 2-1 at a special meeting Tuesday to prepare and formally consider at a later time an amendment to county road regulations allowing permits to be issued for so-called overweight divisible loads that exceed the county’s current 54,000-pound load limit.
Heeding the concerns of county road and bridge department officials over the likely wear and tear on roads, and cautions that permit fees wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of repairs, maintenance and new road construction, commissioners first want to get a handle on the numbers involved.
“I don’t want to be sitting here three years from now stuck with a $25 million bill to fix roads because we allowed this,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.
At the same time, “We want to govern in a way that is thinking of the future,” he said. “And it seems that this particular kind of truck and this type of transportation is the wave of the future.”
Currently, any type of load that can be divided into smaller parts, such as water, sand, gravel, logs and even trash, is required to come in under the county’s load limit and may not apply for an oversize or overweight permit.
Only oversized trucks that can’t be separated out, such as drill rigs or the hauling of heavy earth-moving equipment, can apply for such a permit.
Recently, trucking contractors working for energy companies have begun using a new type of four-axle tanker truck to haul larger amounts of water to and from well pads. The trucks require fewer trips, but they exceed Garfield County’s load limit and do not qualify for overweight permitting.
Such permitting is allowed in other gas-producing counties, including Mesa and Rio Blanco, but not in Garfield.
David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, noted that mitigation money from oil and gas development in the county does help to pay for road improvements. New hauling methods are just another industry advancement, he said.
“You don’t typically get constituent complaints about the investments you’re making into roads and other infrastructure,” Ludlam said. “This is a change that will result in reduced truck traffic and emissions and fewer odor and dust complaints, and that should weigh into this decision.”
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky opposed proceeding with changes to the permit rules until the county can address its road standards to reflect recently adopted new state standards that allow loads up to 62,000 pounds, rather than the county’s 54,000 pounds.