Editor’s Note: Senator Collins will speak live on the Senate floor today at 11:45 (ET) , Live coverage can be found on C-SPAN 2. Audio of her remarks will be available after 3:45 pm today at Audio from Senator Susan Collins. – MB
Senator Collins To Introduce Bill Today To Permanently Move Heaviest Trucks Off Secondary Roads, Onto Federal Highways
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Susan Collins today will introduce legislation that would permanently move the heaviest trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds off Maine’s secondary roads and onto the federal interstate highways. The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would permit trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on all federal interstate highways in Maine and Vermont. The bill would require the heavy trucks to be in compliance with all state laws relating to weight and safety.
“My legislation would finally create a level playing field for truck weight limits on interstate highways in Maine and Vermont,” said Senator Collins. “Under federal law, trucks that weigh more than 80,000 pounds are forced off the interstate and onto local roads, creating safety hazards for motorists and pedestrians and causing road wear and tear. However, a weight exemption for these same trucks permits them to travel on interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. This disparity for certain states simply makes no sense and puts them at an economic disadvantage. Keeping heavier trucks off smaller streets and on the interstate highways where they belong would improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, while reducing congestion, fuel use, emissions, and road damage.”
During a news conference in Bangor last week when she announced that this would be the very first legislation she introduced in the 112th Congress, Senator Collins was joined by Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia; Houlton Town Manager Doug Hazelett; Brian Parke, President of the Maine Motor Transport Association; and Keith Van Scotter, President & CEO of Lincoln Paper and Tissue, all of whom support her efforts.
Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia praised Senator Collins’ tenacity to pass legislation that provides a permanent fix. He also addressed safety concerns that would be addressed by the bill: “I, along with chiefs across Maine, recognize that trucks of this size do not belong on Maine’s city streets and secondary roads. We have seen firsthand the tragedy that can come when heavy trucks are allowed on these streets.”
Doug Hazelett discussed his perspective on safety and economic issues as Town Manager of Houlton, where 130,000 trucks cross the border between Canada and the U.S. each year. Hazelett said that Maine’s weight limit disparity forces Maine’s truckers onto local side roads, causing extensive road wear and tear and damages that must then be covered by local taxpayers. He also described the economic benefits of Senator Collins’ legislation: “I think this bill is about leveling the playing field to allow Maine businesses to compete and show their stripes and be successful,” he said. “From that will come a growth in the Maine workforce.”
Brian Parke, President of the Maine Motor Transport Association, and Keith Van Scotter, President and CEO of Lincoln Paper and Tissue, also praised Senator Collins’ efforts and discussed the economic benefits of changing the law to allow heavier trucks to remain on the highway instead of secondary roads.
In 2009, 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 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 traveling 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 September 2010, the Obama Administration agreed to Senator Collins’ request to make the pilot program permanent and included the provision in a proposed federal funding bill. Unfortunately, the House dropped the provision from the final version of this funding bill. In a continuing effort to secure a permanent fix, Senator Collins successfully urged her colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to include a provision to make the pilot permanent in its version of the funding bill. Despite Senator Collins’ best efforts, however, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal funding bill that did not include her provision, and the Senate Democratic Leader called up a short-term funding bill that did not include the provision. The pilot project expired at midnight on December 17.