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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Panel passes heavy-load bill

Measure lets trucks use nonfreeway routes

BOISE – Legislation to open nonfreeway routes in Idaho to extra-heavy trucks passed a state House committee over the objections of the two North Idaho lawmakers.

The bill now moves to the full House.

Reps. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, and Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, both opposed the bill pushed by Idaho Forest Group.

“I would never like to be seen as someone that stands in opposition to progress, but I think that for progress to be successful we have to be ready for it, and I think that we really are not ready for this,” Ringo said.

Opponents of the measure, including the state associations of counties and highway districts, worked with sponsors over the weekend and proposed a slew of amendments Monday to clarify that local jurisdictions wouldn’t be forced to approve the extra-heavy trucks on their local roads against their will. But Jim Riley, speaking for Idaho Forest Group, told the House Transportation Committee that rather than amend the bill, SB 1117, he’d prefer to pass it as is and leave the amendments to a separate “trailer bill” that would follow after it.

Though there’s no guarantee that the additional bill, which hasn’t been introduced, will get through both houses of the Legislature this late in the session, Henderson said he has confidence that it will.

Two days of hearings on the bill drew strong objections from North Idaho residents, officials, truckers and others.

“I have not talked to a single person in the transportation industry that is for this because of the safety concerns,” said Wally Burchak, part-owner of KBC Trucking in Kooskia.

Former state Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, told the committee, “Up in North Idaho, most of our roads are two-lane, narrow roads. … There’s 110 corners from St. Maries to Plummer, I’ve counted ’em many times.”

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.”

The measure says the 129,000-pound trucks could run on any road where the local highway jurisdiction says ITD’s engineering standards are met. If so, the bill says the local authorities “shall” issue permits for the trucks. The current truck weight limit in Idaho is 105,500 pounds.