First up from the public to testify on the heavy-truck legislation today was Randy Curless, mayor of Dover. “I oppose SB 1117,” he told the Senate Transportation Committee. “And most of it has to do with geological problems. In the bridges I’ve worked on that we’ve built, the soils have been quite unstable.” That’s because of the geologic history and soil composition of the region in North Idaho, he said. “It scoured everything down to bedrock, and then, over the years, it has come in and silted in.” As a result, he said, some of the roads suffer “an enormous amount of flexion with weight on that – that is a definite concern to me.” He said, “With this silt, once you get a large amount of water in it, then it basically is more or less a quicksand. The more weight you put on one spot, it’s going to redistribute that someplace else.”
Curless said, “I have a concern over the tax dollars we’re seeing in a small city. I believe it to be unfair of ITD to come up with regulations that they look at these projects without adequate funding, and I think all the roads are short on adequate funding. Locally, I don’t think we can come up with the money.”
Next up was Matt Van Vleet, vice president for communication and public affairs for Clearwater Paper Corp. in Lewiston. “I ask your vote in support of 1117,” he told the senators. He said his company employs 1,270 people in Lewiston. “Transportation costs are extremely important to us,” he said. “Clearwater Paper in Lewiston is in an extremely competitive industry. … One of our biggest competitors is China. … Idaho is not the lowest-cost place to run a pulp and paper business. … We have limited rail service, limited truck weights, limited candidate hiring pools and a limited fiber supply. However, we do have some great opportunities. Because our production volumes are huge, even small changes make us more competitive.”
Van Vleet said, “Clearwater Paper is a high-volume manufacturer.” It counts its products in “tons of pulp and paperboard and tens of millions of cases of finished tissue products,” he said. If the company could run heavier trucks and reduce its trucking costs, he said, it could make a big difference.