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Bemidji City Council to review commercial vehicle testing

BEMIDJI -- For decades, companies have tested vehicles in Bemidji’s winter weather.

However, because of some concerns from citizens, the Bemidji City Council will review its policies and speak with industry leaders Monday about the future of testing in the community.

According to city documents prepared for Monday’s work session, each year, city staff receives numerous phone calls from residents in residential neighborhoods about the increased volume of cars and trucks.

While Bemidji has served as a testing site for several years, the vehicles and number of testing routes have grown.

Two companies, Roush and MDE Engineering Division Kett Engineering, conduct vehicle tests on a mix of city, rural and highway routes.

Roush, which has been in Bemidji since 1999, includes the following operations:

  • Testing a mix of cars and trucks.
  • Testing 60 vehicles in Bemidji this winter, seven days a week.
  • Utilizes more than 20 routes based on testing standards of the car manufacturers.
  • Employing up to 220 drivers during winter.
  • Driving shifts are from 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 1:30 am. or 3:30 a.m.

MDE, which has operated in Northern Township for nine years, does the following:

  • Tests a mix of cars and trucks, this year, four cars and six trucks.
  • Of the trucks, three are semis, two are box trucks and one is a flatbed truck. The three semis operate on major collector roadways and the city’s Industrial Park.
  • Testing the two box trucks and flatbed truck on major roadways and on city/residential routes.
  • Driving shifts similar to Roush.
  • Employing up to 80 drivers in the winter.

Representatives from both Roush and MDE have been invited to Monday’s work session at City Hall. During the meeting, the council is expected to discuss possible direction on steps city staff can take on the subject.

The current traffic code is very similar to other city ordinances in that it addresses vehicle weight, which is important because of potential right of way damage. The city’s code, like others, enables a city to designate/restrict travel by vehicles that exceed a certain weight.

However, despite the city having a vehicle weight ordinance, it doesn’t have any designated truck route streets in Bemidji.

If the council decides some form of restriction on commercial vehicle is in the public interest, consideration may either be to implement truck routes, impose a time limit for commercial vehicle testing or a combination of the two, according to documents.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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