For the first time in nearly a decade, officials have announced emergency load and speed limits for big rigs on roads in unincorporated Thurston County due to the recent cold snap.
“We had the long cold spell which froze the ground under the roadways,” county roads deputy Norm Wold said.
This week, crews measured 2 to 6 inches of frozen ground under the roadways, prompting officials to put the emergency restrictions in place, he said.
“We have to wait until that freeze goes out, because what’s going to happen is that it’s going to thaw from the surface down,” Wold said.
The restrictions -- which include several classifications and weight limits and a 35 mph maximum speed for big rigs -– are meant to prevent the county’s roads from cracking or generating potholes, Wold said.
Wintertime emergency speed and load restrictions rare and only called for under certain conditions: Similar restrictions took place in 2003 for a short period of time, and in the early 1990s, Wold said.
Some of the major roads affected include Old Highway 99, Cooper Point, South Bay Road and Rainier Road, he said.
Vehicles such as school buses, emergency vehicles and trucks transporting perishable commodities or items necessary for health and welfare of local residents are exempt, according to the county new release.
Residents in unincorporated Thurston County may not have garbage or recycling service until the restrictions are lifted, according to a recorded message.
“It’s only vehicles hauling products,” Wold said. “If they carry tonnage on their vehicles then they have to meet the weight requirements. ...A lot of the vehicles and the equipment are going to have to run like half loads.”
On Wednesday, crews began putting up barricades with signs about the restrictions that take affect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday at more than 100 locations in the county.
County officials will evaluate the rate of thaw on Monday, but it’s possible the weight restrictions could continue until late next week, according to the news release.
Mason County officials are also placing emergency restrictions on the county’s gravel roads. Those are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433