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More than 30 people turned out for a public comment session on heavy-truck rules in Lewiston yesterday, with several local officials raising concerns about the Idaho Transportation Department’s proposed process for approving new routes for extra-heavy trucks; a similar session also was held yesterday in Coeur d’Alene, and Monday in Idaho Falls and Pocatello. Additional hearings are still to come in Twin Falls next Wednesday and Boise next Thursday; the Idaho Legislature this year passed new laws making permanent a 10-year pilot project allowing trucks up to 129,000 pounds on 35 specific southern Idaho routes, plus another law allowing additional heavy-truck routes to be designated statewide.
Four new rules to implement those new laws are the subject of the rule-making hearings; ITD also is taking public comment on the rules through Oct. 24. The Lewiston Tribune reported that ITD Motor Vehicle Division Administrator Alan Frew said on state routes, a hauler would apply for a new route to be designated for loads of up to 129,000 pounds, submitting information about their plans; and then ITD would do an engineering analysis to determine if the route could handle such loads. The results would go to an ITD subcommittee, which then would make a recommendation to the full ITD board. If the board approved, ITD’s chief engineer then would schedule a hearing in the local community to take public comment, and then issue a preliminary order. If the order isn’t appealed within 30 days, it would become final.
Lewiston city officials questioned why the public testimony would come after the ITD board’s already made its decision. Lewiston City Councilman Dennis Ohrtman said, “You have the chief engineer taking public testimony and including that in his recommendation, but if he says do it, the ITD Board has no more say,” the Tribune reported. In Coeur d'Alene, 18 people attended the public comment session, with most favorable on the new rules, though Shoshone County and the Worley Highway District raised some concerns.
On local routes, haulers would have to apply to the local road jurisdiction. Frew told the Lewiston crowd that local officials could require applicants to help fund needed studies to determine if the routes can handle the loads. The current limit on truck weights in Idaho, outside the specific designated routes, is 105,500 pounds. There’s more info here on the proposed rule changes; to submit comments or ask questions about the new rules, email firstname.lastname@example.org write to Adam Rush, ITD Communications, P.O. Box 7129, Boise 83707-1129.
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.