Sen. Collins bill targets truck weight limits

Posted Jan. 25, 2011, at 8:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would permanently move the heaviest trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds off Maine’s secondary roads and onto the federal interstate highways.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would permit trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on all federal interstate highways in Maine and Vermont. The bill would require the heavy trucks to be in compliance with all state laws relating to weight and safety.

“My legislation would finally create a level playing field for truck weight limits on interstate highways in Maine and Vermont,” Collins said in a statement. “Under federal law, trucks that weigh more than 80,000 pounds are forced off the interstate and onto local roads, creating safety hazards for motorists and pedestrians and causing road wear and tear. However, a weight exemption for these same trucks permits them to travel on interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. This disparity for certain states simply makes no sense and puts them at an economic disadvantage. Keeping heavier trucks off smaller streets and on the interstate highways where they belong would improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, while reducing congestion, fuel use, emissions, and road damage.”

Last week at a news conference in Bangor, Collins first announced she would introduce the legislation. She was joined by Bangor police Chief Ron Gastia; Houlton Town Manager Doug Hazelett; Brian Parke, president of the Maine Motor Transport Association; and Keith Van Scotter, president and CEO of Lincoln Paper and Tissue, all of whom support the effort.

U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said she supported the legislation.

“I have long supported national policy that treats all states fairly to avoid the current inequitable system where some states, including Maine, must seek individual exemptions from year to year while others benefit from permanent exemptions,” Snowe said in a statement.

Maine and Vermont are the only states in the Northeast currently bound by the federal weight limit prohibiting trucks over 80,000 pounds from traveling on the interstate systems. The Maine Department of Transportation has reviewed the structures along the interstate route and declared that these roads are safe for 100,000-pound truck traffic.

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