Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Major victory for Senator Collins' effort to lift federal truck weights in Maine

Senate- House conferees approve one-year pilot program
Collins fought to include one year project in final 2010 Transportation Appropriations bill

A Senate-House conference committee late tonight gave final approval to Senator Susan Collins’ provision to create a one-year pilot project that would exempt Maine’s highways from the 80,000 pound federal truck weight limit. Senator Collins, who is the only delegation member from Maine to serve on an Appropriations Committee, has championed this provision. This provision was not included in the original House-passed bill but Senator Collins, who was a member of the Conference Committee, fought hard to have it successfully included in the final Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation Appropriations bill.

“Increasing federal truck weight limits on Maine’s interstates has always been one of my top priorities,” said Senator Collins. “A uniform truck weight limit would keep trucks on the interstates where they belong, rather than on the rural roads that pass through our small towns and villages. A one-year pilot project allowing heavier trucks on the interstates would permit an assessment of the impact of the safety, commerce and road wear and tear. I am delighted that I was able to convince my colleagues on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to allow this pilot project to move forward. I hope that both the House and Senate will give final approval to this bill as quickly as possible and it will be signed by the President.”

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Transportation first notified the State of Maine that it was in violation of federal vehicle weight requirements. Maine’s Congressional delegation has been working since then to change the law, which forces northbound trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds off Interstate 95 in Augusta. As a result, heavy trucks traveling I-95 to Houlton are forced onto smaller, secondary roads that pass through cities, towns, and villages, creating safety concerns.

Senator Collins first raised this issue in June during an Appropriations Committee hearing with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who pledged to help address this issue. Senator Collins then worked with her colleagues on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to have her provision included in the FY 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

The FY 2010 Transportation Appropriations conference report must now receive final approval from both the House and Senate. It would then be sent to the President for his signature. The House is scheduled to vote on Thursday.

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