Controversial legislation to let extra-heavy trucks – up to 129,000 pounds – run by permit on state and local routes throughout Idaho is now law, but it’s unlikely any new routes will be designated for the heavier trucks in North Idaho before the spring of next year. Idaho’s state transportation board is starting a lengthy rule-making process to figure out how to handle requests for trucks exceeding the state’s current 105,500-pound weight limit, including requests for segments of busy, winding U.S. Highway 95 through North Idaho. The new rules would be presented to lawmakers for approval in their 2014 legislative session.
“I think the primary thing is the way the roads are built in North Idaho: Can they handle the weight?” asked Jim Coleman, the Panhandle member of the state transportation board. “I think you have to evaluate them on a case-by-case basis.”
The ITD’s approach is drawing plaudits from the new law’s opponents, who include North Idaho lawmakers, local government officials, highway districts and even loggers and truckers. Mill owners and agricultural producers, led by Coeur d’Alene-based Idaho Forest Group, proposed and backed the new law, saying hauling bigger loads will boost their efficiency and bottom lines in a big way – and also mean fewer trucks total on the roads. State Transportation Director Brian Ness said, “We can’t rush something through and risk public safety. … We serve the taxpayers of Idaho, and we have an obligation to listen to them, get their input.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.