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Eye On Boise

One heavy-trucks bill heads to gov, another generates far more controversy

The House has voted nearly unanimously, 69-1, in favor of SB 1064, the bill to make permanent a 10-year pilot project allowing extra-heavy trucks – up to 129,000 pounds – on 35 designated southern Idaho routes. Only Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, voted against the bill, which earlier passed the Senate on a similarly near-unanimous vote.

That’s far different from another heavy-trucks bill that’s pending and up for a continued hearing this afternoon in the House Transportation Committee. SB 1117, which passed the Senate on a 22-13 vote, would open up any non-freeway route in the state to the extra-heavy trucks, without any pilot project, as long as the local road jurisdiction rules that the roadway meets engineering standards  set by ITD. There’s been strong opposition to that bill from North Idaho.

At a hearing last week that ran long into the evening, Clearwater County Commissioner Stan Leach told the committee, “After 30 years of driving trucks and 10 years of working on the local road system, I would say that there’s not a single road in my area” that would be safe for the extra-heavy rigs. “The sharp turns that are up in my area will make it difficult for drivers operating longer vehicles,” he said. “I can tell you from experience what an awful feeling it is to spin out on a steep grade when you have a heavy load on.” He also cited weather conditions, including ice, snow, rain and wind. “I can see why this might work in southern Idaho where the roads are relatively flat and straight.”

Mark Benson of Potlatch Corp. told the panel his company would like to use the extra-heavy trucks to “move wood chips … along the Highway 95 corridor,” and ITD officials confirmed that by their standards, Highway 95 through North Idaho would be eligible for the extra-heavy truck routing envisioned under the bill.

After last week’s extended hearing ended with six people still to testify, the bill is up again this afternoon, starting at 1:30 in room EW 40.

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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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