Washington State Patrol hosted a grand opening ceremony Thursday for the Ridgefield Port of Entry to show off the weigh station’s state-of-the-art upgrades and dedicate the facility to the only commercial vehicle officer killed in the line of duty.
Troopers and dozens of officials from partnering agencies gathered late in the morning at the weigh station located on northbound Interstate 5, about a mile north of Ridgefield before the ilani casino exit, to honor Weight Control Officer Joseph Modlin.
Standing at a podium situated between a tractor-trailer and row of trooper SUVs, Capt. Shannon Bendiksen told the crowd the port of entry is essential to curtailing the thousands of crashes each year in Washington.
“The (commercial vehicle) officers are critical to this mission, and we’re excited to provide them with the new facility,” Bendiksen said.
A plaque was unveiled for Modlin who died in the line of duty Aug. 15, 1974, when he was struck by a tractor-trailer at a weigh station in Home Valley on state Highway 14. According to the Behind the Badge Foundation, he was struck while conducting an inspection on another truck.
He was 60 years old at the time and had served six years with the state patrol. Modlin was survived by his wife and three children.
Modlin’s daughter, Luanne Mason of Vancouver, attended the ceremony and said her family is deeply appreciative of state patrol keeping her father’s memory alive.
“For eternity,” she said of the plaque’s permanence.
The weigh station in north Clark County is operated by state patrol in District 5, which covers Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Klickitat and Skamania counties. It closed Oct. 19, 2018, when crews broke ground on a $3.7 million project to upgrade the station built sometime in the 1960s. The facility was fully operational by mid-November.
Construction included a new 3,919-square-foot, single-story scale house building and an operations station. There were a few delays, but the entire facility reopened around its originally planned date, Bendiksen said.
The primary function of the port of entry is to monitor truck traffic entering the state. The scale is open 24 hours a day. Officers use advanced technology to screen commercial motor vehicles and notify which trucks should enter into the scale for further inspection, Bendiksen said.
The checkpoint looks for several potential violations, from improperly secured cargo to the driver’s failure to log enough sleep hours. But the most common is overweight violations — depending on the number of axles and their license, trucks can weigh more than 100,000 pounds.
There are five ports of entry in the state, and Ridgefield’s is the state patrol’s busiest, with more than 120,000 truck crossings every month, Bendiksen said. There are more than 50 scales or weigh stations statewide; Ridgefield is second behind the northbound I-5 scale in Nisqually, she said.
Between 5,000 and 7,000 trucks are stopped and inspected at the Ridgefield scale house every day, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer Marc Modler said.
Inside the scale house, visitors were permitted to walk into a newly added space beneath a parked truck. The concrete pit is illuminated with LED lights and has an automatic air induction system. The entire building is equipped with automatic lights and ventilation, Modler said.
There is an older pit for inspections on the opposite side of the newly equipped one, but previously, many officers had to slide on their backs beneath trucks to examine them.
“The inspections are done more quickly,” Modler said. “We can get trucks back on the road, or put them out of service.”
The station is equipped with more bells and whistles, including three large flat screen televisions relaying a dozen video surveillance feeds placed around the facility. But the crown jewel is likely the facility’s interface with the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks — a sorting tool that allows commercial vehicles to be weighed, measured and license plates read while traveling at freeway speed.
Those measurements happen before the port of entry, and the system has three seconds to decide whether to instruct a truck driver to pull in, Mason said. In the past week, two trucks were put out of service because the system detected, and the officers confirmed, that the truck’s parent company was out of compliance, which can happen for various reasons.
“They’re sitting right back there,” Modler said as he pointed a thumb over his shoulder.
Overall, the station is an immense improvement over the “old, ugly box” officers worked out of for decades, Modler said.
Jerzy Shedlock: 360-735-4522; email@example.com; twitter.com/jerzyms