An Idaho Senate committee has approved legislation allowing extra-heavy trucks on the state’s roads.
The Spokesman-Review reports the Senate Transportation Committee approved the proposal on a 5-4 vote on Thursday.
The bill would allow trucks up to 129,000 pounds anywhere the roads can handle them, including mountainous northern Idaho. The current limit is 105,500 pounds. The bill excludes 35 southern Idaho routes that are part of a 10-year-pilot project where heavier tractor-trailers are allowed already.
The committee also voted unanimously on another bill to make the southern Idaho pilot project permanent. Both bills now move to the full Senate.
Lawmakers approved the bill despite concerns that northern Idaho roads might have problems with the heavier loads, and that perhaps a pilot project such as the one in southern Idaho might be in order.
“I don’t think we have time to wait and lay out a pilot project, in the light of the closing of mills and what few mills are left up there,” said Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene.
The Idaho Forest Group in Coeur d’Alene proposed the bill.
“Transportation costs are extremely important to us,” said Matt Van Vleet, vice president for communication and public affairs for Clearwater Paper Corp. in Lewiston. He said bigger loads could mean saving money for Clearwater Paper.
But Dover Mayor Randy Curless told the committee that extra-heavy trucks will damage roads his city might not be able to afford to fix.
“I think all the roads are short on adequate funding,” he said. “`Locally, I don’t think we can come up with the money.”
There was also concern that the big rigs could pose a danger on the more challenging terrain in northern Idaho.
But Jim Riley of Idaho Forest Group said that properly configured trucks could operate without compromising public safety.
Stuart Davis, executive director of the Idaho Association of Highway Districts, told committee members there wasn’t enough information to support allowing the heavier rigs.
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