EASTON — Talbot County roads experts say Black Dog Alley is deteriorating under the stress of heavy tractor trailer traffic, but county lawmakers’ proposal to implement a vehicle weight limit along the route has residents and business owners up in arms.
During a county council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 14, council members reviewed and ultimately tabled a resolution to ban trucks weighing more than 17,000 pounds from driving on Black Dog Alley, arguing that the road is “crumbling” and needs to be preserved to ward off hefty repair costs.
The resolution was first introduced by the council on Dec. 10, 2019, and saw its first round of public comment during the Jan. 14 meeting.
The council was met with a peppering from the public of reasons why Resolution 280, introduced by Council President Corey Pack, and Members Laura Price and Pete Lesher, shouldn’t pass: It would harm business owners in the area who regularly receive large shipments, it wouldn’t help the road enough to justify its implementation, and the cut-through route is a safer option for truckers seeking to avoid the high-volume highway.
Price said “we’re all in support of local businesses,” but argued people should be willing to drive “an extra mile or two” along U.S. Route 50 to avoid causing damage to the road, which she said the county doesn’t have money to fix.
“It’s five minutes out of somebody’s day to try to utilize Route 50, unless they’re really going from point to point on Black Dog Alley,” Price said. “Unless you’re going right to that local business, I think we need to have a restriction there.”
Black Dog Alley is a 3.6 mile country road that runs from U.S. Route 50 (Ocean Gateway) south to State Route 331 (Dover Road) and intersects with Cordova, Chapel and Matthewstown roads.
Talbot County Roads Engineer Mike Mertaugh and Roads Superintendent Warren Edwards, who attended the meeting to discuss the resolution with the council, suggested that trucks going to local businesses along the route should be exempt from the law.
Mertaugh said erecting a sign at the beginning of the road that advises that non-local trucks of a certain weight are prohibited would deter truckers from entering.
He said law enforcement officers could patrol the road and ask truckers where they’re headed. If they provide documentation that they live in the area or that they’re headed to deliver something to complete a job for a local business, they’ll be allowed to pass.
“The concept of a weight restriction is really to prolong the useful life of this roadway that we have today,” he said. “Certainly the intent is to try not to impact local businesses and local users of the road.”
Edwards said the road as it is now in its deteriorating state is a “danger,” adding that the county spent nearly $40,000 on repairs to Black Dog Alley last year, and it can’t afford to continue maintaining the decaying road.
“We do not want to stop anybody from doing work with contractors or farmers who live on that road, have businesses there, or somebody who wants to get a driveway paved or concrete work or a new pool. That’s not the idea here,” Edwards said. “A big hope here is that we’re getting awareness out to how bad this road really is.
“If anything comes out of this, it’s conversations with the contractors and the farmers and awareness to you as council that we have to come up with a plan and be prepared because that asphalt has to be milled, patched and paved (within the next four years),” Edwards said.
The resolution as it’s written now offers exemptions for federal, state or local government-operated vehicles, vehicles engaged in agricultural production or operations, vehicles responding to an emergency, vehicles that belong to landowners with property along the route, and vehicles used to provide services to landowners, tenants, or residents along the road.
Pack suggested the council set the resolution aside for further discussion and some additional language changes. But he acknowledged the urgency of finding a solution to the problem and preserving the road, saying “roads don’t last forever.”