Borrego Sun - Since 1949

County Correspondence, Thundering Trucks

 

Last updated 9/16/2021 at 9:43am



After seeing a photo of the thundering trucks in the August 5 issue of the Borrego Sun on Page 4, Nancy McRae, a Borrego Springs resident, sent her correspondence with the County. She says, “I am not letting this issue get ignored.”

This is a letter she sent to Supervisor Jim Desmond, subject: USE OF MONTEZUMA GRADE BY REGULAR CONVOY OF LARGE TRUCKS CREATES POTENTIALLY LETHAL DRIVING HAZARD

Supervisor Desmond – There is a steady stream of 18-wheeler trucks driving down Montezuma Grade and through the town of Borrego Springs on a daily basis. They are creating a potentially deadly driving hazard for Borrego residents and visitors who use Montezuma Grade to get to Borrego Springs.

Yesterday (June 21) as I was driving down Montezuma grade about 8:00 a.m., I had to swerve TWICE to avoid two large trucks who crossed the center divide (yellow solid line) on blind curves because they need the extra road space to make their turn. Apparently the trucks are too large to make the turn without crossing the center line. Fortunately I was driving below the speed limit and was able to take evasive action; otherwise I would have had a head-on collision with one or the other of these trucks. This is not acceptable.

Here is additional information:

- The trucks are unmarked. There is no indication of what company/owner is operating the truck or what they are hauling. There is no phone number on the truck to call to report a truck that is driving unsafely. All of the trucks are the same size and color.

- I have heard and read from many other Borrego Springs residents that the frequency and number of these truck trips has increased over recent months, and many other drivers have had close encounters.

I have been told that the narrow canyon to the east of Scissors Crossing also experiences this same dangerous truck traffic.

- No one has been able to ascertain with certainty what these trucks are carrying. At least one truck overturned past Scissors Crossing and was filled with something like mulch. There are assertions, that I have not been able to substantiate, that these are EDCO trucks.

- The trucks barrel down Palm Canyon drive and around Christmas Circle, consistently exceeding the speed limit of 45 mph and providing a hazard for bikers and pedestrians, in addition to law-abiding drivers.

- I have not been able to get an answer on where these trucks are going, although I have heard and read that they are headed to a landfill near the Salton Sea.

Borrego Springs residents deserve an answer on who is operating these trucks, what they are carrying and how to report unsafe drivers. We also deserve to have our 45 mph speed limit enforced on Palm Canyon and Christmas Circle.

Furthermore, the County has an obligation to assess the safety of the regular use of Montezuma Grade and the narrow canyon road by this large, regular convoy of trucks, and to ascertain whether there is a safer route (like Highway 8) for them to take. Clearly there is a company or entity using our county roads through Borrego Springs as an unsafe shortcut to their destination. Before someone is killed or injured by their unsafe driving practices, I am requesting a response from the County about this issue. I have cc’d Rebecca Falk, Chairman of the Borrego Springs Sponsor Group, and am requesting this issue to be put on the BSSG agenda.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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On July 19, the County responded to McRae’s email:

At the request of Supervisor Jim Desmond and Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer, Department of Public Works (DPW) staff reviewed your email received June 22, 2021, regarding your concerns of large truck traffic on Montezuma Valley Road in Borrego Springs.

We understand your concerns regarding large trucks crossing the centerline on Montezuma Valley Road. The County has recently completed a Road Review for Montezuma Valley Road that identified recommended improvements to increase the general safety of the corridor. One of the recommendations that we will pursue when funding is available is to install a centerline rumble strip to alert motorists when they are crossing the centerline.

You had also requested a truck restriction for this roadway. The County would not be able to support the installation of a regulatory truck restriction in this case. To establish the restriction, a reasonable alternative route must be established. While you mention the trucks could use Interstate 8, that is not near Montezuma Valley Road and cannot be considered a reasonable alternative route.

You have also indicated that trucks are also speeding on this roadway. Enforcement by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has proven to be an effective measure to reduce excessive speeding and unreasonable driver behavior in the County of San Diego. Staff will forward a copy of your email and this correspondence to the El Cajon Office of the CHP for their review. You may also wish to contact the El Cajon CHP at 619-401-2000, to discuss your concerns in further detail.

I realize this may not be the answer you were looking for from the County, and I apologize we are not able to implement the truck restriction as you requested. We appreciate your interest in traffic safety within your community. Your input is important to us as we work to continually provide roadway facilities that all roadway users can safely and efficiently use. If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Ernie Bartley, Senior Civil Engineer, at Ernest.Bartley@sdcounty.ca.gov.

Sincerely,

JEFF C. MONEDA, Director

Department of Public Works

cc: Ernie Bartley – Department of Public Works

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Lastly is Nancy McRae’s response to what was sent by Jeff Moneda, Director of Public Works for the County of San Diego:

Dear Mr. Moneda and Mr. Bartley: Thank you for your timely response to my letter of June 22. I appreciate the information you provided. I would like to respond to five specific points you made.

1. The recently completed Road Review for Montezuma Valley Road: Is it possible for the public to read this report online or receive a copy via mail or email?

2. The recommendation to pursue, when funding is available, the installation of a center line rumble strip: Is there any timeframe for when this funding may become available?

3. The installation of a center line rumble strip: While I agree that a center line rumble strip would help motorists, it is not clear whether it will help these large trucks. What I witnessed is that the westbound trucks are too large to stay in their lane without grazing the roadside boulders/outcroppings along the tight curves on this road. I think they know they’re crossing the center line, but they weigh that risk against hitting the mountainside. I have seen multiple trucks do this. Unless you widen the lanes, these trucks cannot safely navigate the hairpin curves, rumble strip or not.

4. To establish a truck restriction, a reasonable alternative route must be established: There are a handful of possible destinations for these trucks: either the Salton Sea west side, Salton Sea east side, Hwy 10, Hwy 8 or Hwy 78 (the section beyond the Salton Sea). There are multiple alternative routes to get to any of these destinations. If those routes are some miles longer, that does not mean they are unreasonable, particularly where safety is concerned.

5. Enforcement by CHP has proven to be an effective measure to reduce excessive speeding: I agree with you on that statement and am grateful for our CHP officers. However, it is rare to see one in Borrego, on the Montezuma Grade or even on S2 and S3 leading to Borrego. Their presence is not large or regular enough to be a deterrent, and it would be a lucky circumstance if one were here at the same time that one of the trucks happened to be speeding by.

When it becomes tolerable to be outside for extended periods of time in the heat, I will stand at Christmas Circle (assuming you cannot send out one of your employees to do this task) for an hour or two on multiple days of the week to record how many trucks fly by and take videos of them so that you can see first hand what we are dealing with. Unless this brigade of trucks has stopped using Borrego as a thoroughfare, this should provide some data driven information that can be used to assess the safety of Montezuma Grade as a primary route for these large trucks. In the meantime I would appreciate any additional information or response you can provide regarding the above five points.

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