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Otter wants hearings before heavy trucks roll

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed legislation allowing extra-heavy trucks on non-freeway routes statewide, but says he wants the Idaho Transportation Department to hold public hearings and take other steps before designating any new routes – including Highway 95 in North Idaho - for the big, 129,000-pound trucks.

“Safety must be the highest priority,” Otter wrote in a signing letter sent to lawmakers today. “The process of considering nominated routes also must include timely, well-noticed public hearings and notification of adjacent property owners.”

Senate Bill 1117 was pushed by Idaho Forest Group in Coeur d’Alene, but opposed by an array of local officials in North Idaho who contend the extra-big trucks are unsuitable for North Idaho’s twisting routes and wetter weather. Idaho currently allows 129,000-pound trucks only on 35 designated routes in southern Idaho, where they were the subject of a 10-year study and pilot project before the routes were made permanent this year.

The legislation lets any non-freeway route in the state be designated for the extra-heavy trucks, with local highway jurisdictions, including cities and highway districts, having the say for local routes, and ITD deciding on state routes like Highway 95. A follow-up bill, HB 322, which passed the Senate Monday, adds guarantees that locals have the say over their local roads and must hold public hearings, but doesn’t cover state routes or ITD.

Idaho’s current truck-weight limit, outside the 35 designated southern Idaho routes, is 105,500 pounds.

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