New agricultural station to open early
The agricultural inspection station under construction near the California Highway Patrol scales on Interstate 80 will replace Truckee’s current checkpoint in September, three months ahead of schedule.
“If you were in construction you’d call this a boring and steady project. It doesn’t happen very often, but we’re happy when it does,” said Jay Van Rein, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Van Rein said the $19.6 million budget has held steady, and the project has been moving ahead of schedule, projected to finish in September rather than the initial December prediction.
The inspection station will consist of seven vehicle lanes and will be off of the interstate near the CHP scales east of Truckee, where vehicles will exit to be inspected. The new station was needed because the current one slows traffic in Truckee, according to Van Rein.
“One of the goals was to reduce traffic for the folks in Truckee. Another consideration was to work with the California Highway Patrol to make it one stop for truckers,” as opposed to the two stops at the scales and the current agricultural station in Truckee, Van Rein said.
Personnel who man the check points have the authority to check passenger vehicles, but budget cuts and higher priority commercial vehicles have curtailed such inspections.
“We’ve started a pilot project to resume passenger vehicle inspection at other stations to establish a benchmark for what we find in passenger vehicles and the importance of inspecting passenger vehicles,” Van Rein said.
The current budget for all of the state’s 16 inspection stations is $9.5 million, which is dwarfed by the nearly $20 million pricetag for the Truckee station. But Van Rein stressed the importance of the new station to efficiency, safety, and quality of inspections.
“Its easier if we aren’t seeing so much local traffic to identify higher risk vehicles and inspect them,” he said.
With the new inspection station placed off the interstate, CHP will make sure vehicles will not bypass inspection when entering the state, Van Rein said.
“We’ve got a real gem with the agriculture in the California Central Valley, and the stations are important in protecting that,” Van Rein said.
He also added the value of the inspection stations for environmental concerns such as sudden oak death and gypsy moths, which are a threat to the state’s woodlands.
“I don’t want to get into too much detail in what we are looking for, but we’re pretty fond of inspecting fruit shipments and bee hives,” he said. “Every year stations intercept thousands of prohibited plant materials that could cause crop destruction or quarantine.”