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Post Falls mayor speaks out against allowing heavy trucks in North Idaho

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin is speaking out against SB 1117, the bill to allow extra-heavy trucks statewide that cleared a Senate committee by one vote late last week. “Idaho’s geography varies greatly,” Larkin said. “From our perspective, bigger and heavier trucks on northern roads are too great a risk. We need to take into account the effects this increase will have on our public safety as well as on our fragile infrastructure.”

Larkin joined 30 other North Idaho officials in sending a letter to the Senate committee last week opposing the bill, but it narrowly passed and now is headed to the full Senate for debate. Click below for Larkin's full statement, which is in a press release from the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks. Meanwhile, Jim Riley, who's lobbying for SB 1117 on behalf of Idaho Forest Group, issued a rebuttal to Lark's statements, blaming railroads for opposition to the bill. You can read his full statement here.


News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2013

 

PROPOSED INCREASE IN TRUCK WEIGHT LIMITS ON STATE HIGHWAYS STIRS OPPOSITION

Joint letter to Senate cites safety and economic concerns

Post Falls, ID - Last week the Idaho Senate Transportation Committee narrowly passed legislation that would allow for an increase in the weight limits of trucks traveling on state highways. Elected officials and public safety officers from Northern Idaho oppose the bill, now headed to the Senate floor.

S.B. 1117 allows for an increase in truck weight from 105,000 lbs. to 129,000 lbs. Prior to the committee vote, 31 Northern Idaho elected officials, public safety officers and concerned citizens submitted a joint letter to the legislature asking that they oppose this legislation.

The letter, which cited both safety and economic concerns, was presented as part of a combined effort to stop these massive, dangerous trucks from traveling across roads and bridges in the northern portion of the state.

“Idaho’s geography varies greatly,” said Clay Larkin, Mayor of Post Falls. “From our perspective, bigger and heavier trucks on northern roads are too great a risk. We need to take into account the effects this increase will have on our public safety as well as on our fragile infrastructure.

In 2003 the state legislature passed a House bill to create a 10-year pilot program, which allowed for heavier trucks on select state highways in southern Idaho. With the expiration of this pilot program comes the proposed expansion of increased weight limits throughout the state.

“We need to be careful, the pilot program was conducted with strict oversight by the Idaho Transportation Department,” states Mayor Larkin. “This bill doesn’t create a pilot program with oversight, it creates permanent routes. Given the changing landscape throughout Idaho it seems cavalier to simply create permanent routes without knowing what the true consequences will be.”

Bigger trucks mean bigger dangers. The 2000 U.S. Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study found that adding weight to existing trucks makes them more susceptible to rollover, increases crash risk, and makes it more likely that crashes will be fatal to car occupants.

According to the Federal Highway Administration at the end of 2011, 371 of Idaho’s 4,164 bridges are considered structurally deficient. Increasing the weight of the trucks that travel across these bridges will speed up the rate of deterioration, adding to the financial burden of taxpayers who will foot the bill for additional maintenance and repairs.

“This is a common sense issue. We have a crumbling infrastructure and no way to pay for it,” added Larkin. “Currently, Idaho would need $278 from each driver to fix all of structurally deficient bridges. That number would skyrocket if we have an increase to truck weights on our roads.”

Residents are encouraged to contact their state senator and tell them they firmly oppose this legislation.

 

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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