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Big trucks, narrow roads strain Guam’s ‘Waste Way’
TRASH hauling trucks have made hundreds of trips from the Harmon main transfer facility to unload the island’s garbage at the new Layon Landfill in Inarajan.
This puts a tremendous strain on Guam’s highways, especially Route 4 passing through Talofofo Bay.
On the main transfer station in Harmon alone, huge trash trucks, also known as 18-wheelers, make the trip to Layon every day.
These big trucks, weighing more than 100,000 lbs. trailer and trash included, are putting a huge strain on the coastal highways leading to the landfill.
The most difficult sections are located in between Talofofo and Inarajan, most notably in the As-Alonso area. These huge 18-wheelers take up to 15 trips a day hauling tons of garbage to the Layon Landfill.
On Friday, the Variety rode in one of these big trucks driven by driver Gerald LeFever to gain firsthand experience about what drivers face every day. What Variety learned was both sober and scary at the same time.
After filling up the 18-wheeler with garbage, the truck left the Harmon facility and headed to the Layon Landfill. Harmon’s already worn and crumbling roads took a beating as the huge truck rambled out of Rojas Street.
The truck headed straight to Route 16, passed Barrigada, then onto Route 10 before finally making a left turn to Route 4, at the intersection near Chalan Pågo.
At Route 4, the truck had to stop briefly at the Ylig Bridge construction site. One side of the bridge was closed, so the truck had to let incoming traffic pass.
Near Jeff’s Pirates Cove, the truck met with a security detail from G4S, which was assigned to help the truck navigate through Talofofo Bridge up until a certain point in Dandan Road, near the garbage facility.
Right after the Talofofo Bridge, the narrow path became a little bit trickier to navigate. While going uphill, the truck had to take several sharp turns while several cars going downhill passed by.
At around 7 a.m., the truck made a right turn to Dandan Road, just a few minutes away from Layon Landfill.
The unloading of garbage was quick and mechanized. Soon enough, the truck was leaving the facility on its way to meet the G4S security detail parked in a spot along Dandan Road, so they could safely guide it on the return drive to Harmon.
At this leg of the trip, the truck was going downhill through Route 4, passing through the same sharp turns right before the bridge. While driving through the same route, LeFever expertly maneuvered the 18-wheeler as an incoming truck narrowly missed his rig. At several points, LaFever had to drive close to the edge of the narrow road to avoid encroaching onto the other lane.
“We recognize the issue down in those corners around Talofofo and Inarajan and the federal receiver made a recommendation to the court that they fund an escort that leads our trucks through there in order to provide a safer drive,” said Guahan Waste Control President Robert Perron. GWC operates the main transfer station in Harmon.
“Because it is so tight, you can potentially encroach on the other lane, so they need to be in front of our truck with a sign. They lead us through the corners so people are aware that these large trucks are coming into those tight corners,” Perron added.
According to Chase Anderson of solid waste receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., almost 10,000 trucks have entered the Layon Landfill facilities since September 2011. He added that more than 90 percent of the trash going to the landfill goes through the Harmon transfer station.
A Department of Public Works project status report dated May 14, 2012 acknowledged there are ongoing and proposed construction projects along Route 4 which are “considered critical elements in the on-going operations of transfer trucks traveling to and from the landfill.”
The report indicated the court decreed DPW to conduct the As-Alonso area slope stability analysis. In terms of Route 4 safety enhancements, DPW is currently finalizing a letter to the receiver “laying out the path forward to design and construct the project.”
According to Joaquin Blaz, DPW acting administrator of Office Highway Safety, “the department is moving forward with a safety project which will widen the pavement on Route 4 on about 18 curves, between Ylig Bridge and Dandan Road, by adding paved shoulders up to 4 feet wide on both sides of the roadway.”
He said this “will enhance safety by providing additional maneuvering room around the curves and allowing the trailer wheels of large trucks to move safely around the curve while still remaining on the pavement.”
The project, according to Blaz, is currently in the planning stage. An engineering firm will be contracted to perform final design plans within the next couple of months, he added. DPW is expected to complete the project by 2014, according to Blaz.
Variety also spoke with David Manning from GBB, who said the court allowed the receiver to fund the construction project using proceeds from 2009 Layon Landfill bonds. He said the cost of adding these safety improvements would range from $4 million to $5 million.
In terms of funding the safety improvements along Route 4, Manning said GBB believes it is important to ensure the safety of the truck drivers and all those who are driving through Route 4 every day. “Therefore, the project needs to be funded,” Manning stressed.
The Variety also asked Sen. Tom Ada, transport and public works chairman, to comment on the current conditions of Route 4 and other trash routes.
Ada stated, “As with many projects, the last 15 percent of effort will probably take the longest to accomplish. In the case of the Layon Landfill, issues related to funding for the acquisition of rights-of-way and for road construction will clearly be a challenge.”
“Notwithstanding, the end state of establishing a landfill to deposit our solid wastes must continue, despite the ‘problematic sections’ that must be contended with in the interim. Admittedly, the mitigation measures being taken to work around these sections is not the ideal, but they do allow us to sustain the operations in the meantime," he added.