More brake restrictions requested along busy roads in Summit County
Summit County has been inundated with requests from homeowners living near the county’s busy roads in recent years to increase the number of engine brake restriction signs to help combat noise pollution from truck traffic.
The county has installed engine brake restriction signs in some residential areas where the county has jurisdiction. However, residents living along Interstate 80 near Parley’s Canyon, U.S. 40 and S.R. 248 are requesting similar signs on those roads, which are under the jurisdiction of the Utah Department of Transportation. UDOT’s policy dictates it will not install signs along its roads unless local jurisdictions request them.
Last week, Derrick Radke, Summit County’s public work’s director, went before the County Council to discuss changing the county’s code to standardize the current practice of only placing signs along county roads, while also recommending UDOT place signs on roads with less than a 5 percent grade and that are fewer than 3,000 feet long. Hours of restriction could also be considered, according to a county staff report.
“Jake brakes (compression engine brake) are restricted in residential areas, but our code doesn’t mention state facilities,” Radke said. “If we were to go further, we should probably clarify that language. I’d like to see us set a standard.”
The Utah Trucking Association is aware of the concerns about the noise associated with engine brakes, Radke said, but the association also emphasized engine brakes are an essential feature built into trucks to help drivers maintain better control when driving down a steep grade or long slope.
“They have been working with manufacturers to reduce the noise, so most of the sounds you are hearing are from older trucks,” Radke said.
One of the requirements for UDOT to place signs along its roads is that local jurisdictions have to enforce the restrictions. In a letter Lt. Justin Hemingway, a patrol division commander with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, addressed to Radke, he said effective enforcement of engine brake restrictions would require an officer be present in the locations where the signs are posted to wait for a violation to occur.
“This enforcement may not be practical due to several variables,” he stated. “In all, the Sheriff’s Office will always respond to a call for service regardless of the nature. Calls for service are jurisdictionally and priority based on several factors. Variables encountered in day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office may not place this type of enforcement or response as the No.1 priority.”
Kamas Valley resident David Jenkins submitted the most recent request to the County Council for brake restriction signs along S.R. 248. He said he would like to see the restrictions enforced more consistently in the county.
“As the years have passed, the truck traffic has increased significantly, while the Wasatch County portion of S.R. 248 enjoys the decency of engine brake restrictions, the Summit County downhill sections of the road do not carry the same restrictions,” he stated in his request. “And unfortunately the truck drivers know it. My neighbors and myself now listen to engine brakes 24/7/365. This morning it started at 6:05 a.m. It’s loud and the grade is lengthy, the sound carries for miles and it’s noise pollution.”
Jenkins said “all I was hoping for was for them to throw up a sign or two.”
The item was listed on the agenda last week as a work session item and no action was taken or requested. Radke agreed to develop amended language for the current noise ordinance and then bring it back before the Council for approval.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.