Chapman cites work to increase safety on Uptown curve
The driver of the truck that went through the Uptown Cinemas parking lot and crashed into the back of an apartment building on Nevada Street at 9:12 a.m. on Sept. 11 did not have a license to drive a truck hauling a trailer, according to Chapman.
The driver, Rafik Galoyan, 19, of Sacramento, ran from the scene of the accident and police arrested him two hours later at Susanville Ranch Park.
Less than an hour after the apartment building was hit, another truck affiliated with the same company as Galoyan’s came around the curve at the west end of Main Street so fast the truck was on two wheels and had to screech to a halt on Main Street.
Chapman said no safety measures could prevent an accident when the driver isn’t qualified to operate the vehicle.
“The only thing we could do as a board, if the county was to participate, would be for us to pass an ordinance to outlaw any big trucks to be on the grade,” Chapman said. “Which, obviously our county counsel or our county administrator would tell us would run afoul of some state law.”
Spending up to $120-million dollars to build a bypass around Susanville would take 20 years, if local officials could convince Caltrans to try to buy back the property to the north and west of Susanville it sold in the 1970s when officials abandoned the idea of a bypass.
A member of the Town Hill Safety Task Force, Chapman said Caltrans told the task force there isn’t enough room on Pine Street for a runaway truck ramp and Caltrans doesn’t build such a ramp across opposing lanes of traffic.
The task force approved a concrete barrier wall to be constructed on the curb between Main Street and the sidewalk heading to the theater from the upper parking lot. Its purpose was to prevent big rigs from crashing into the theater.
Chapman said the wall to protect the theater hasn’t been built. But he admitted the runaway truck that hit the apartment building would have missed the north end of the wall.
The city and the county put together the estimated $3,000 funding, design and plans for the wall and obtained the encroachment permits from Caltrans. Chapman said theater owner Mike Smith hasn’t built the wall.
Last year, Smith pledged $1,000 worth of materials and labor to build the wall. Later in the day on Sept. 18, Smith said to build the wall he would have to buy two forms that cost $5,000 apiece and could only be used once.
Chapman donated $1,000 out of his discretionary fund to help build the wall. Supervisor Brian Dahle also donated $500 out of his discretionary fund. Former Susanville City Councilmember Mary Fahlen donated $500 on behalf of her family.
An out-of-control truck hit Fahlen’s granddaughter, Jennifer Kostick, in July 2002 as she was waiting for the movies to let out. The truck destroyed about 13 new vehicles in the Doyle Motors lot and it did more than $200,000 damage. One vehicle was pushed into the garage of Susanville resident Chris Bidart, who lived adjacent to the Doyle lot.
In 2004, Smith said the theater had been hit six times in six years.
Chapman said the task force’s semi-annual meeting takes place in October and he will bring up the issue. If Smith cannot build the wall, Chapman said maybe Caltrans or the city can build it.
Under conventional state funding rules, Chapman said there won’t be any money for a safety checkpoint at the top of the hill on Highway 36 until 2012-2016 unless the county can get special legislation passed to fund it sooner. He said it was fortunate no lives were lost.
Susanville City Councilman Kurt Bonham, who lived in the apartment building hit by the truck, shared pictures with Chapman showing the damage to the inside of the building.
If the truck hadn’t made a last second turn to the left, Chapman said it would have plowed into Susanville City Councilmember Kurt Bonham’s apartment and probably killed Bonham. Bonham saw the truck coming toward him, Chapman said, and “hightailed down the hallway.” Bonham also helped a woman and her 3-year-old in an upstairs apartment to get out of the building.
A propane line and electrical line were severed and Chapman said it was a minor miracle there was no fire or explosion.
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