Monday, June 22, 2009

Pilot project to lift Federal truck weight limits in Maine

In a continuing effort to address the federal weight-limit restriction that prevents heavy trucks from traveling on much of Interstate 95, Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today sent a letter to leaders of the Appropriations Committee. In the letter to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Senator Collins requested that a one-year pilot project exempting Maine’s highways from the 80,000 pound federal truck weight limit be included in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

Under questioning from Senator Collins during an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pledged to work with her, and state and local officials, to help address this significant safety and commerce issue. In addition, following that hearing, Senator Collins discussed the issue with Transportation Subcommittee Chairman, Patty Murray (D-WA).

Following is the full text of Senator Collins’ letter to Senate Appropriators:

Chairman Daniel K. Inouye Vice Chairman Thad Cochran
Senate Appropriations Committee Senate Appropriations Committee
S-131 The Capitol S-146 A The Capitol

The Honorable Patty Murray The Honorable Christopher Bond
Chairman Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Appropriations Subcommittee on
Transportation, Housing and Urban Transportation, Housing and Urban
Development and Related Agencies Development and Related Agencies
142 Dirksen Senate Office Building 128 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Dear Senators Inouye, Cochran, Murray, and Bond,

As a follow up to yesterday’s Transportation-HUD appropriations hearing with Secretary LaHood, I want to specifically request that a one-year pilot project allowing trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s Interstates be included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. Secretary LaHood pledged to help address this significant safety issue in Maine. In addition, I am grateful for the recent opportunity to have also discussed this issue with the Subcommittee Chairman, Patty Murray. I will soon provide you with the language requested for inclusion in the bill.

Maine has struggled for years with the federal truck weight limit. Under current law, trucks weighing 100,000 pounds are allowed to travel on Interstate 95 from the border of Maine with New Hampshire, to Augusta, Maine. At that point, trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds are forced off Interstate 95, which proceeds north to Houlton, a distance of more than 200 miles. As a result, heavy trucks are forced onto smaller, secondary roads that pass through our cities, towns, and villages, creating safety concerns. In fact, there have been several accidents, some of which have tragically resulted in death, which occurred after these large trucks were diverted onto secondary roads and through smaller communities.

A pilot project keeping these heavy trucks on the Interstates, which are designed to carry more weight than the rural roads, would permit an assessment of the impact of safety, commerce, and road wear and tear. This change is widely supported by public officials throughout Maine, including the Governor, Maine State Police, and the entire Maine Congressional Delegation.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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