In the wake of the supercommittee stalemate, it’s no surprise that a vast majority of Americans have little respect for Congress and for the federal government in general. Everything seems to break — and break down — along party lines.
But that simple description misses an important point. Lots of important work does get done in Washington D.C., but because it is not of the nature that spurs controversy and incites passion, it fails to get widespread notice. And if it affects the northeast corner of the country and no where else, it gets even less notice.
Sen. Susan Collins’ success in allowing trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s interstate highways — I-95, 1-195, I-295 and I-395 — is one such good governing moment. Except that it has been more than a moment. The senator has worked doggedly on changing the law, which furthered the perception of manufacturers and other businesses that Maine was at the end of the line, for 12 years.
The fix, which really has no effect on the rest of the interstate highway system, will remain in place for 20 years.
Though some people argue that trucks should have been limited to 80,000 pounds on all roads, that threshold has long been in the rearview mirror — 100,000-pound trucks are the standard of highway freight transportation. And those big trucks have been rolling on narrow side roads not built to withhold that weight and not designed to accommodate the truck’s wide turning radius.
Heavy trucks also are a danger to car and pedestrian traffic.
The senator also succeeded in keeping white potatoes on the USDA’s list of approved foods for school lunches. As with the truck issue, it was a fact-based, logical argument that changed the rules.
Trucks and potatoes are neither Republican nor Democratic issues. Working on laws, rules and lists that affect Maine is what good governance is all about. Sen. Collins has succeeded in two fights that really matter to many Mainers.