Idaho governor signs bill allowing extra-heavy trucks

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed legislation allowing extra-heavy trucks on nonfreeway routes statewide but says he wants the Idaho Transportation Department to hold public hearings and take other steps before designating any new routes.

“Safety must be the highest priority,” Otter wrote in a letter sent to lawmakers Monday. “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 said the extra-big trucks aren’t suitable 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 nonfreeway route in the state be designated for the extra-heavy trucks, with local highway jurisdictions, including cities and highway districts, making the call for local routes, and ITD deciding on state routes like U.S. Highway 95. A follow-up bill, House Bill 322, which passed the Senate on Monday, adds guarantees that locals have the say over their 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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