Sunday, December 5, 2021
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Right turn to danger: Central Freight waiting for solution to fix utility pole hazard

🕐 5 min read

A utility pole’s proximity to a street off East Loop 820 is causing concern among some employees of trucking company Central Freight Lines, who fear that trucks may come in contact with the pole and eventually knock it over, causing the pole to down power lines and possibly fall onto a major highway.

And while Central Freight, Oncor, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the city of Fort Worth have discussed possible solutions to the issue, none has been implemented so far. That has left the trucking firm not only frustrated, but increasingly concerned that the issue won’t be resolved before it creates a dangerous situation.

The situation dates back about two years, to construction of the EVO CNG fueling station used to fuel Central Freight’s trucks. The station at 5188 East Loop 820 South, neighbors Central Freight’s terminal at 5200 East Loop 820 South.

To accommodate construction, Central Freight had to relocate the driveway to its terminal. Trucks had previously been able to enter the terminal directly through the service road along East Loop 820. With the fueling station in place, trucks coming along the service road now have to turn right on David Strickland Road in order to get to the driveway.

That turn is where the danger occurs for drivers of double trailer trucks because the pole stands at the corner of David Strickland Road and the service road, said Kevin Harper, a Central Freight Lines driver and one of the company’s designated driving instructors.

When a truck’s front trailer is about a foot away from the curb, Harper said, the back trailer comes up on the curb, often brushing against the wooden power pole.

Drivers can avoid this by making a wider right turn onto David Strickland Road, Harper said, but drivers not familiar with the area, or drivers who are driving at night with limited visibility, may not be aware that a wide turn must be made in order to avoid the pole.

Harper said he has seen some close calls as trucks brush against the pole.

There are gashes on the pole and tire marks on the ground from trucks that have come in close contact with the pole, said Kris Ikejiri, Central Freight’s vice president of administration.

To find a way to remedy the situation, Ikejiri and director of business development Mari Ellen Borowski contacted three different entities: Oncor, which owns the pole; TxDOT, which owns the land; and the city of Fort Worth, which owns David Strickland Road.

Ikejiri said the ideal solution would be to move the pole farther back from the street.

Though Oncor owns the pole, Oncor’s policy states that Central Freight would be responsible for paying the cost to have the pole moved, Oncor spokesperson Khristen Jones said.

Oncor spokesperson Jeamy Molina said Oncor’s relocation policy is governed by a tariff approved by the Public Utility Commission, a state agency regulating utilities in Texas. The tariff is a set of rules that Molina said dictates “our standards of service to ensure non-discriminatory treatment between customers.”

The tariff’s provision dealing with relocation states: “If removal or relocation of Company facilities is in direct conflict with a proposed structure and is associated with a change in Retail Customer’s requirements that results in additional revenue to the Company, such removal or relocation costs will be included as a direct cost in the calculation of the contribution in aid of construction.”

According to the tariff, “Company” refers to Oncor and “Retail Customer” refers to the business requesting the relocation of an Oncor facility, such as a utility pole.

“If we moved facilities when any customer requested relocation at our cost, the cost of service would increase for all customers,” Molina told Fort Worth Business in an email. “Consequently, this assures that other customers are not subsidizing one customer’s preference for facility relocation.”

Jones said Oncor could not disclose the cost to move the pole because the amount is private information between two entities.

However, Ikejiri said Central Freight should not be responsible for the cost since the pole belongs to Oncor and poses a risk to the area as a whole, not just Central Freight.

Central Freight hasn’t discussed splitting the cost with other trucking companies that frequently use the road, including UPS, Old Dominion and Con-way, Ikejiri said.

“We don’t think it’s a private issue,” he said. “But anyone can hit it.”

Another suggestion was to put a fence around the pole, but Ikejiri said TxDOT told Central Freight that a fence could not be built due to the utilities underground.

Ikejiri said TxDOT recommended widening Davis Strickland Road in order to make the wide right turn easier, a task that would belong to the city.

But according to a July email sent to Central Freight by senior planner Mirian Spencer of the Fort Worth Transportation and Public Works Department, there were “no available funds at the city to improve the intersection nor to relocate the pole.”

In the email, Spencer suggested relocating Central Freight’s driveway, but Ikejiri said there is no other place to relocate the driveway because of EVO CNG’s location.

Borowski said she feels the project has reached a dead end.

“We’ve been taken aback by the fact that we’ve met with Oncor, we’ve met with the city and we’ve met with the other utilities, and it seems to be a case of putting cost ahead of safety,” she said.

Jones said Oncor sent a crew to inspect the area on Oct. 27 and “saw no safety hazard.”

Mayor Betsy Price said she understands the safety risk. She saw the pole and was briefed on the situation when she attended the EVO CNG grand opening in April, but said she hasn’t heard any updates on the project for at least a month.

“I am sorry to say I have not followed back around to see what’s happened with it,” Price said.

City Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, whose district includes the area where the pole is located, said no one contacted her regarding the issue. However, she said, any work done to the pole would be the responsibility of Oncor and TxDOT, not the city.

TxDOT spokesperson Val Lopez said TxDOT is continuing to monitor the issue.

Harper, who has driven for Central Freight for 29 years, said it’s a concern that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“It’s a pretty big issue,” Harper said. “If you don’t watch out, you’re going to mess up and have an accident.”

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