The state is constructing a commercial vehicle inspection and weigh station and a new state police barracks along Interstate 95 in Perryville northeast of the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River.
And a new shopping center is being built on the property behind them.
The inspection center will house the second truck and tractor-trailer weigh station in that area; the other is on U.S. 40 near the Thomas Hatem Memorial Bridge. The two stations will prevent truckers from taking alternative routes to avoid being inspected, said Jack Moeller, director of engineering for the Maryland Transportation Authority.
"Unless they can swim, they can't get across the river" without using the bridges, he said.
The $24 million project, which began in February 1994, is expected to be completed by the end of this year. It includes six buildings: two inspection centers and two scale houses, on each side of I-95; a structure for Maryland State Police Barracks M, on the southbound side; and a salt storage building on the northbound side.
Toll revenues are paying for the project, Mr. Moeller said.
He said construction will not affect traffic along the highway.
Once the contractor, David Bramble & Sons of Chestertown, completes the work, every truck traveling on I-95 will pass through a weight screening, he said.
Southbound trucks will have to pull off the highway onto a ramp with a scale under it to be weighed in motion at 35 mph. Northbound trucks will be weighed as they go through the toll booth. Because weighing a moving truck is less precise than weighing a stopped one, the initial screening will look for trucks weighing a certain percentage of the legal limit, Mr. Moeller said.
Truckers will receive a signal to continue back onto I-95 unless their rig weighs more than the specified percentage of the limit. Then they'll have to wait at the weigh station. Those percentages will change daily, depending on traffic conditions.
If the truck exceeds the legal limit, the driver will be fined and may have to take off some of the weight, Mr. Moeller said.
Penalties vary, depending on how much a truck exceeds weight restrictions. The restrictions vary according to the size of the truck. The highest weight permissible on I-95 is 80,000 pounds, Mr. Moeller said.
Every overweight truck will be inspected for defects such as cracked frames, missing bolts, stressed tires and worn brakes, said Kerry Brandt, transportation authority spokeswoman. Trucks also will be inspected randomly.
In addition, inspectors will be checking logbooks to find drivers who have exceeded the maximum number of hours traveled without taking required breaks.
Mr. Moeller said the fact that the new screening can't be dodged will force truck drivers to comply with safety standards.
"Trucks using I-95 in the future will be safer," Mr. Moeller said. "They'll know they are going to be weighed."
He said the state and federal governments are putting more pressure on overweight trucks.
Ms. Brandt said that "it's important to make sure they're not driving with excessive weight and then causing unsafe conditions for other motorists."
The construction is in Cecil County's development corridor from Elkton to Perryville between U.S. 40 and I-95, said John Barclay, Perryville's town administrator.
It comes at a time when Stewart Associates, a land development company based in York, Pa., is doing the groundwork for what is expected to be a 40-acre shopping center on 160 acres just behind the weigh station and police barracks site.
Mike Vaughn, one of the company's associates, would not give specifics but said the proposed shopping center might include outlet stores. The entrance and the plumbing and sewer systems are being installed, he said, and store construction could begin by the end of this year.
Mr. Barclay seemed pleased by the construction. "Hopefully, it will bring people further into town," he said. "We need to work on bringing people off I-95 and into town to revitalize downtown Perryville."
Mr. Barclay said he hopes the commercial revitalization along I-95 will lead to an increase in residential development, but that the town needs to balance it with industrial and commercial services.
"Cecil County is becoming a bedroom community where people live here and work elsewhere," he said. "We need to provide more services for people within the county."