When Raymond and Vannie Dart moved into their home off Hansen Road in rural Tracy 21 years ago, they were looking for the quiet and peace of country life away from the hum of city traffic.
However, their peaceful rural life has now been upended by the cacophony of commercial trucks and vehicles speeding on the residential streets heading to and from the International Park of Commerce.
As a result, dozens of residents from the rural community gathered on Saturday at Lammersville School to meet with county, city and law enforcement officials to vent their frustration and seek solutions to the increase of commercial tractor-trailer trucks driving off designated truck routes through their neighborhoods.
“Now our life is destroyed here. It’s not fair,” Raymond Dart said.
The International Park of Commerce is 450 acres and 20-million-square-feet of business park for fulfillment center, distribution, flex office and warehouse space. Along with the Patterson Pass Business Park, the International Park of Commerce is home to businesses including Amazon, Costco, Safeway Medline, Smuckers and FedEx Ground.
As businesses continue to open at the park, an increase in commercial truck and vehicle traffic has followed.
The Darts and other residents in the rural area north of the business park have seen an increase in the trucks rumbling through their neighborhood.
“You mow the lawn, and you hear the trucks travelling, bang! And some of the trucks are so heavy you feel a rumble through the house and some of the neighbors are showing cracks in their house,” Raymond Dart said.
The couple said they can hear the impact from trucks passing over speed bumps about 150 feet from the edge of their home.
“When they fly over that hump starting at 9 o’clock at night until 3:30 in the morning, we’ll fall asleep then we get woken up. Then we’re just about to doze off and another one will fly by, so we have no sleep,” Vannie Dart said.
District 5 Supervisor Robert Rickman was aware of the rural truck situation.
“I can tell you I am just as frustrated as you are with the truck traffic and what’s going on. And I can tell you myself and my staff and the city of Tracy and everyone here we are committed to try and resolve this issue,” Rickman said.
When the business park was planned, traffic was designed to head along Mountain House Parkway toward either the Interstate 580 or Interstate 205 interchanges. Over the past two years, residents say more of the traffic is finding its way to the two-lane roads residents ride their horses and their children walk.
Dale and Pat Brandes have lived at the corner of Los Positas Way and Hansen Road for 25 years and watched as the traffic worsened over the past two years.
“The semi traffic, the trucks that come down our road day and night at high speeds a lot of the time, noisy, crushing our roads, cracking — our houses rattle and vibrate, they’re very frightening,” Dale Brandes said. “And when you’re walking along the road and these big semis come – because you have to walk along the side of Hansen – those trucks will pull you right in.”
He said drivers haven’t shown much consideration for the neighborhoods, driving through barriers and on the sides of the road that have no sidewalks.
“They are just a group of drivers trying to get to get to work or trying to get somewhere else on our road illegally, and they have a lot of negative impact to our neighborhood and our community,” Dale Brandes said.
Kris Balaji, San Joaquin County Public Works Director, told the crowd the county has been working two years with Prologis, the city of Tracy and the California Highway Patrol to try and resolve the traffic issue.
“We know the road, Hansen Road, is not a legal truck route. We know that, and our partners at CHP have been writing tickets like nobody’s business,” Balji said.
A 24-hour traffic volume count by the county in mid-January showed 5,465 total vehicles traveling on Hansen Road south of Von Sosten Road. In that time frame 28 of those were 3-axle vehicles and another 26 were 4-axle vehicles.
Another 24-hour count of Von Sosten Road west of Hansen Road in early July had 2,159 vehicles on the roadway with three of them being 3-axle vehicles and 14 being 4-axle vehicles.
The county started tracking tickets written by the CHP to see what was causing the increased truck traffic in the residential streets off the designated truck route.
“The guys who are getting ticketed, are they by mistake — they just wandered into this place — we found out repeat offenders in there,” Balaji said.
The county discovered some commercial drivers were being directed into neighborhoods by Waze, a smart phone navigation app owned by Google.
“We all use Waze, a wonderful way of routing. But in this case, as we all know, Waze doesn’t know the distinction between a truck, a bicyclist, a motorcyclist and car,” Balaji said.
“Those apps that we enjoy, our friend, is an enemy when it come to this thing,” Balaji said.
The county asked Google if there was anything that could be done about routing truck traffic. Google said they had the legal right to use an algorithm to show routes on roads that have the least amount of traffic and would take the least amount of time for drivers to take.
“We’re still working with our folks at the city about trying to figure out how we can get more communication to Amazon. Amazon and FedEx seem like they are the biggest offenders, so we’re really trying to work with them on terms of communication, trying to get the drivers to still understand the appropriate routes,” Zarif said. ”Amazon has an app that’s supposed to send them the right way, so we’re going to try and see if we can reach out and see if they can make it – instead of recommended – make it mandatory for them to use that app for the truck drivers.”
CHP Tracy area commander Lt. David Wharry had a commercial enforcement team from Sacramento patrol the neighborhood roads last week and hopes to bring them back once a week to help with the truck issue.
“We are writing tickets, a lot of tickets, and the way to curtail errant behavior is honestly to make it painful and that’s what a ticket does, you have to pay money and it can affect your employment. Commercial drivers get tickets they could lose their commercial license,” Wharry said.
The Tracy area CHP office reported that between December and February officer issued 185 tickets to commercial vehicles that were overweight and overlength for that area.
Tickets being issued have been for trucks that are overweight, over length and failure to obey regulatory signs. He said they are working with Caltrans to get additional signs posted on the freeway offramps to alert drivers about proper truck routes.
“I can write tickets to the workers. I can write tickets to the truck drivers all the time. But there are going to be more workers and truck drivers that are going to be new, that haven’t felt that pain until they get their first ticket,” Wharry said. “So I think if we can educate people and let them know this is what’s going to happen – and from the law enforcement side we don’t want to write tickets. We want the activity to stop however they may happen.”
Most of the feedback Wharry was getting from officers were that truck drivers said it was an app that led them off the truck route.
“’Waze told me to go this way, Google maps told me to go this way.’ And we have been in contact with Google, ‘is there something you can do can you, put something in an app that you can push a button that (says) ‘I’m in a commercial vehicle?’” Wharry said. “Now Google is a company; are they motivated to write an algorithm in their program to do that? I don’t know if they are or not but maybe there is something we can do to motivate them to do that.”
Wharry did say there are apps for commercial vehicle drivers that do restrict what roads they can and can’t go on, but the apps charge a fee.
“I think maybe they are taking the easy way, which is doing what all of us do: type in their phone and go,” Wharry said.
Andrew Malik, development service director with the City of Tracy, had reached out to businesses, including Amazon, FedEx, Fisher Scientific and Medline at the corporate level and was hoping for face-to-face meetings to discuss the truck issue.
“They can also say, not only the trucks don’t go this way, but we can actually appeal to them for their workers as well. They can say, ‘workers this is the route you take,’” Malik said.
Dale Brandes said he and his wife tried to talk to an Amazon site manager about the traffic and ask for help, but he told the couple it was a city issue, and he couldn’t tell drivers where to drive.
“The message to us was, locally, Amazon didn’t care at all about the impact of their drivers to our neighborhood,” Dale Brandes said.
“We explained to them they were being a poor neighbor, and that we live down here and to mention to their drivers not to come down this way. And he said, ‘No, we can’t tell our drivers anything. They are all independent drivers, and we don’t have any control over what they do,’” Pat Brandes said.
The couple feels, like many of their neighbors, that the only way to curtail the truck problem is to close Hansen Road at the I-205 overpass.
“We have come to the conclusion that any of these measures that don’t prevent them don’t work, anything voluntary,” Dale Brandes said. “We’re to that point now where we believe a road closure is the only way to stop them because none of these other methods have shown that they will stop the truck traffic. We’re not anti-trucks. They are critical, but this is not the route for them. This is not where they should be.”
Balaji said they can’t close a road without studying the impact it would have, but the county has the authority under an emergency road construction to temporarily close a section of roadway.
“We are going to desperate measures to use whatever authority that we can have to solve this problem — that could solve the truck problem. We do still need to address the workers going through Hansen to get to the distribution center.”
Rickman said a decision to close a roadway would come before the board of supervisors and they would have to consult with the fire department, police department and highway patrol before shutting a road completely.
“God forbid something happens. We need to make sure our emergency personnel can get over there,” Rickman said. “If you do shut down, say Hansen, there are three or four more ways they can get past that, and I would hate to shut down a roadway and all of the sudden you have these big rigs cruising through one of the other residences…We’ve just got to make sure if something like that does happen, we have to think two steps ahead.”
Another idea proposed by the city is a roundabout to be built between Promontory Parkway and the Hansen Road overpass that would allow residential and commuter traffic to go through but a commercial tractor-trailer would be unable to continue north and be forced to continue in the roundabout and go back where they came from.
Prologis, which built the business park, would also be required to build the roundabouts after a traffic study.
When asked what the weight limit was on the Hansen Road overpass, Balaji said the overpass was not designed for commercial truck traffic. Residents asked why the bridge couldn’t be closed right away if it the county knows that trucks aren’t supposed to be travelling over it.
“We will check with Caltrans. They own that bridge, and if they say it is not designed for the big rigs and it’s a safety issue, we will use any reason we can,” Balaji said.
Raymond Dart agreed with a majority of his neighbors wanting Hansen Road closed at the overcrossing.
“That’s my only solution. I can’t see anything else. I can’t see any alternatives. These truck drivers and commuters are just going to get where they need to go no matter what. If you close this, they’ll take the next exit and find their way around,” he said.
Balaji didn’t want a closure of Hansen road to affect other parts of the community.
“One thing we don’t want to do is, just because I don’t want cars on my street, I don’t want to send them to your street and cause problems to you. Traffic, we say, is like water. You close at one end, it will find its way to go through the other side,” Balaji said.
Rickman agreed that they would have to take their time and check what impacts closing Hansen Road could bring.
“Nothing is off the table. If we decide at a later time, or whenever that time is, to close Hansen or the bridge there – and again, it’s not just the county’s decision. We’re all going to have to be part of that to make sure that we’re doing one thing, we’re not going to harm something else,” Rickman said. “I know you guys want that bridge closed and what I can tell you is that we are looking into it.”
During the Saturday meeting, residents discussing the traffic watched as a tractor-trailer truck emblazoned with the Amazon logo drove past the group on Von Sosten Road, off the designated truck route.
“We’re already at the breaking point and it’s just going to get a lot worse and we need the city and the county to find solutions to keep them out of here and put them on appropriate routes,” Dale Brandes said.
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