Mostly clear

Garbage trucks weigh heavily on street budgets

  • Garbage trucks pick up trash, recycling and yard waste in the Luther Burbank district of Santa Rosa.

When it comes to damaging city streets, there isn't anything quite like a garbage truck.

Lumbering through neighborhoods, stopping and starting, turning and backing, they stress the pavement more than 9,300 times as much as an SUV does, according to one study.

"In general, it's acknowledged that garbage trucks beat the crap out of streets," said Santa Rosa City Councilman Gary Wysocky. "They get the most wear and tear from garbage trucks."

An engineering analysis cited by the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission found a garbage truck puts more strain on a street than just about anything else, including a fully loaded transit bus, a semi-truck hauling a single trailer, or a UPS delivery truck, said John Goodwin, an MTC spokesman.

Santa Rosa has taken the step of making the top layer of asphalt thicker to help counter the impact of the 25-ton-plus behemoths, which account for an estimated $2.2 million in annual street maintenance costs, according to a 2010 study.

As financially strapped cities experience a proliferation of fissures and potholes, garbage trucks are getting renewed scrutiny to see if the companies that own them should be contributing more to fix streets.

In Windsor, a transportation consultant last week recommended the town explore imposing a fee on the town's garbage hauler for the damage the trucks cause to the pavement.

"The fact of the matter is they are the heaviest vehicles on the road," said Ted Lidie, the project manager who documented the overall deterioration of Windsor's street pavements from a "very good" grade in 2008, to simply "good" this year.

"When those roads were designed, there was a lot less waste (being hauled)," he said of Windsor's 84 miles of paved roads. "Trucks were smaller."

And with recycling and multiple waste streams, there are more truck trips generated than in the past. In Santa Rosa, for example, one truck with a split container picks up garbage and yard waste in one pass, and a separate truck collects recyclable material.

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