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10/6/2006
Council debates resolution to restrict Jake Brakes

By Jesse Chadderdon, Staff Reporter

A resolution introduced by Brandywine Hundred Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) urging the state to post signs prohibiting trucks from using air compression brakes on Naamans Road sparked a debate over the state’s policy governing such devices.

While only the state has the authority to post signs prohibiting the use of jake brakes, as they are commonly called, request for such restrictions must be
made formally by the local municipality. Jake brakes are designed to slow trucks without putting wear on their conventional brakes. They produce a loud grinding sound that has led to restrictions on their usage in some residential areas.

In the case of Naamans Road and other unincorporated areas of New Castle County, that means the county council must pass formal legislation making the request.

“This becomes a model for New Castle County to use if constituents want to eliminate jake brakes in their areas,” Weiner said. “For each location where signs are requested, that district council person would have to draft a new piece of legislation.” Weiner said he was approached by Sen. Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke) and Rep. Robert Valihura (R-Talleyville) requesting
the legislation on behalf of constituents living along the hilly section of Naamans Road to the west of Foulk Road. Cloutier could not be reached for comment.

Frank Czajka, who lives on the 2100 block of Naamans Road, called the noise “unbearable.” “The noise from the breaks just resonates throughout the house,” he said. “I think that if they put a sign up, drivers wouldn’t use them as much because they don’t want to have to pay fine.”

Several council members said they would support Weiner’s request, but expressed frustration over the procedure. Council President Paul Clark went as far as to call it “stupid.”

“I can’t see why the state can’t just put up signs at the border saying ‘no jake brakes unless there’s an emergency,’” he said.

Councilwoman Patty Powell (D-Middletown West) said she wondered if the Delaware Department of Transportation would even follow the council’s request since it had no control over funding.

“It doesn’t make logical sense for someone to request that this body pass something and not know whether they’re going to have the money to do it,” she said.

Valihura agreed with council members and said the General Assembly passed a law two years ago that DelDOT is not following correctly.

“In my mind we already addressed this,” he said. “But I’m tired of playing games with DelDOT and since this is the only sign I expect to request in my district, followed their directives and went through the county.”

Valihura said he has been trying to get signs posted along Naamans Road for years, and had initially been told by DelDOT that they would not post such restrictions.

“Then I drove through Smyrna and saw them everywhere and was told that they would only be posted if requested by local municipality,” he said. “Since most of New Castle County didn’t incorporate like towns in New England or even in
Pennsylvania, the most local government is New Castle County.”

In the 12 months, Delaware State Police have issued 43 traffic citations for jake brake violations in New Castle County, including 27 so far in 2006.

Both Weiner and Valihura said that they believed the DelDOT has intentionally made the process difficult to limit the number of requests coming from state legislators.

“I don’t believe should have to be going through the county to do this and I find the whole process bizarre, but short of going through some sort of legal
process, I thought would just be easier to work within the system on this, since I don’t expect to make any further requests,” Valihura said.

Darrell Cole defended DelDOT’s policy. “In our view it is noise issue, which has to be addressed by the municipalities or county passing noise ordinances,” he said. “If they pass an ordinance, we’ll put the sign up. We haven’t said no yet.”

But Cole said the department would not post signs completely banning the use of jake brakes, since they are safety device. He said the City of Dover had passed a resolution calling for a total ban, which DelDOT is not complying with.

“We will not tell truckers they cannot use jake brakes – it would be irresponsible,” Cole said. “But we are willing to post signs saying they are
only to be used in the case of an emergency.”

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