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Eye On Boise

Wed., March 6, 2013, 11:07 a.m.

Senate passes bill to open routes statewide to extra-heavy trucks, 22-13

Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, argues for allowing heavier trucks statewide during a Senate debate on Wednesday. (Betsy Russell)
Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, argues for allowing heavier trucks statewide during a Senate debate on Wednesday. (Betsy Russell)

After first passing SB 1064 on a 33-1 vote, to remove the expiration date on a decade-old pilot project allowing extra-heavy trucks – up to 129,000 pounds, up from the current 105,500-pound limit – on 35 designated southern Idaho routes, the Senate spent nearly two hours debating SB 1117, to open up local and state roads anywhere in the state to the extra-heavy trucks, before finally passing it on a 22-13 vote. The move is opposed by a huge array of elected officials from North Idaho, including mayors, sheriffs, county commissioners, fire officials, highway districts and more.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, read off a long list of local officials and entities opposing the bill, including the associations of cities, counties and highway districts, and an array of local entities. “And these are just the ones that I have heard from,” she said.

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, said his local highway district – which maintains the dead-end road that starts at the end of his driveway – opposes the bill, as do area fire officials and other local governments. “As I weigh that final vote, tipping the scales to the government side or to the industry side, my scales tip toward industry,” Nonini said. “I think it’s good for industry. For the most part industry wants this. … It’ll help with their efficiencies.”

Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said, “The public policy question is should the Legislature micromanage ITD or should we let the experts, that is the engineers, make the recommendations.”

Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, said, “This is a tough vote for me. …  Given my background, there’s a lots of reasons to support this bill.” But he noted that the extra-heavy trucks aren’t allowed on the interstate highway system, “the safest, best-built road system in our state.” He said, “Bottom line for me is it takes trucks that would and should be in the interstates,” and directs them onto local routes.

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, said, “I’d like to draw your attention to U.S. Highway 95. Great road, Lewiston to Moscow. Five miles short of Moscow, it changes – dramatically. And the reason it changes is because the plan for how that road was to be built was not followed by the Department of Transportation. And they had to stop that construction. In the last six years, that stretch of highway has been the most lethal stretch of highway in the state of Idaho, and that highway will be open to these trucks. I don’t think this is a proper, balanced approach for this body to take.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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