WASHINGTON, D.C.-U.S. Senator Susan Collins expressed concern and disappointment that the House of Representatives is set to pass a sweeping funding bill known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) that does not include a provision to make permanent or even extend the pilot program that allows trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on federal interstate highways in Maine. The CR provides funding for essential programs through September 30, 2011.
Senator Collins authored and successfully secured this pilot project last year. The House is set to vote on the funding measure as early as tomorrow. Without an extension, on December 18, the heaviest trucks will be forced off federal highways and back onto secondary roads.
“Permanently allowing the heaviest trucks to use federal interstate highways in Maine has always been one of my top priorities,” said Senator Collins. “The pilot project has clearly provided economic, energy, and environmental benefits and has made our secondary roads and many downtowns safer. That is why I am so disappointed that the House could pass a Continuing Resolution that does not include either a permanent fix or an extension of the current pilot program that I authored. Given the time constraints and voting rules in the Senate, it is unlikely that we can restore the truck weights language that the House took out, thus jeopardizing the fate of what has been a successful pilot project.
“At my request, the Administration included a provision to make the pilot project permanent in the proposed CR it sent to the House last week. It’s unfortunate that the House removed that provision. I urge Congressman Mike Michaud, who is a member of the House Transportation Committee, to work to convince House leaders to include this vital language before the House votes on the bill. Without this language, not only would the heaviest trucks be forced off the federal interstates and back onto secondary roads, but it would also create unnecessary confusion for Maine’s trucking industry and public safety officials,” continued Senator Collins.
Last year, Senator Collins successfully included a provision in the FY 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill that created a one-year pilot project that allows trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s federal interstates, such as I-95, 195, 295 and 395. According to the results of a preliminary study by the Maine Department of Transportation, the pilot program has allowed Maine businesses to receive raw materials and ship products more economically, thus helping to preserve and create jobs. It has also improved safety, saved energy, and reduced emissions. For example, on a trip from Hampden to Houlton, a truck travelling on Interstate 95 saves 50 minutes over Route 2 and avoids more than 270 intersections and nine school crossings. The driver also saves approximately $30 on fuel by traveling on the Interstate
In June 2004, Wilbur Smith Associates, a nationally recognized transportation consulting firm, completed a study which found that extending the current truck weight exemption on the Maine Turnpike to all federal highways in Maine would reduce heavy truck traffic through several communities such as Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Freeport, and Bangor and Brewer, and result in a significant decrease of three fatal crashes per year.
Last year, Senator Collins was appointed to a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. During a Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Senator Collins first raised the issue of Maine’s truck weight disparity with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who pledged to help address this issue. Senator Collins then continued to work with her colleagues on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to have her provision included in the FY 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. Since then, she has worked with the Administration which has tried to help make the provision permanent. Unfortunately, the House did not include the provisions.