AUGUSTA – Governor John E. Baldacci today signed a proclamation declaring a State of Emergency that will allow an immediate change in truck weight limits on Maine’s Interstate highway system.
“Moving heavy truck traffic off Maine’s secondary roads and onto the Interstate that was built to handle them is a matter of public safety,” Governor Baldacci said. “Maine has been working for years on this issue. Now that the President and Congress have acted, we cannot wait to make the change. Every day we keep these trucks on small, secondary roads we increase the risk to the public.”
Before the Governor’s proclamation, almost 300 miles of Maine Interstate was limited to 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, despite the fact that there’s a 100,000-pound limit on Maine non-Interstate roads, and near or above 100,000-pound limits on roads in surrounding states and provinces.
On Dec. 16, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, which included a provision inserted by Maine Sen. Susan Collins and supported by the State’s entire Congressional Delegation that created a one-year pilot program raising weight limits on the Interstate system. Before the federal law change, Maine could not raise its limits.
During the First Regular Session of the 124th Legislature, lawmakers unanimously passed a Resolution asking Congress to authorize the 100,000-pound trucks on all of Maine’s Interstate Highway System.
The change is expected to make Maine roads significantly safer. According to national statistics, 82 percent of commercial vehicle fatalities occur on non-Interstate roads. By allowing heavier trucks on the limited-access Interstate, the traffic is removed from towns and cities and smaller roads, where they pose a greater risk.
In addition to improving safety, the increased weight limits will help the environment and reduce costs for businesses in the State. According to estimates provided to the Maine Department of Transportation, trucks traveling on the I-95 are 14-21 percent more fuel efficient than the same trucks on secondary roads.
Moving heavy traffic to the Interstate is also expected to reduce wear-and-tear on Maine’s secondary roads and reduce bridge and pavement repairs by as much as $2 million per year.
Maine law, as previously prescribed by federal law, limits truck weight on portions of the Interstate to 80,000 pounds. The State of Emergency will allow the higher truck weights until legislation can be adopted in January.
The text of the proclamation follows.
WHEREAS, trucks on nearly 300 miles of Interstate highway in Maine have been limited by federal law to 80,000 pounds, despite the fact that the weight limit of states and provinces surrounding us, as well as the state’s primary and secondary highways, is at or near 100,000 pounds; and
WHEREAS, this disparity in truck weight limits often forces heavier trucks onto the state’s primary and secondary highway systems; and
WHEREAS, the state’s primary and secondary highway systems are not built to the same structural standards as the Interstate Highway System; and
WHEREAS, a recent study noted that the crash experience of 5- and 6-axle combination trucks was 7 to 10 times higher on Maine’s non-Interstate highways than on the Maine Turnpike, which is currently exempted from the federal weight limits; and
WHEREAS, national findings show that rural Interstate highways are 3 to 4 times safer than rural secondary roads; and
WHEREAS, 82% of commercial-vehicle related fatalities in Maine occur on non-Interstate roads, including a recent tragic accident in Aroostook County; and
WHEREAS, a recent study estimated that a federal truck weight exemption would remove an estimated 7.8 million loaded truck-miles of travel from Maine’s primary and secondary highway system each year, diverting the traffic to the safer Interstate highway system; and
WHEREAS, the US Congress enacted legislation creating a one-year pilot project to extend the federal truck weight exemption to the entire Maine Interstate Highway System; and
WHEREAS, the one-year pilot begins upon the signing of the legislation by the President; and
WHEREAS, in addition to increased safety, allowing a 100,000 pound 3-axle truck tractor in combination with a tri-axle semi-trailer on the Interstate Highway System could save up to $2 million annually in bridge and pavement costs on the state’s primary and secondary highways; and
WHEREAS, for the purposes of this pilot project, a 100,000 pound vehicle is defined as a 3-axle truck tractor in combination with a tri-axle semi-trailer; and
WHEREAS, the federal truck weight exemption would reduce Maine’s and the nation’s dependence on foreign oil by eliminating the need to divert to less direct routes and increasing payload capacities, thereby reducing the number of truck miles traveled; and
WHEREAS, the Maine Legislature in the First Regular Session of the 124th Legislature passed a Resolution asking Congress to authorize the 100,000 pound trucks on all of Maine’s Interstate Highway System; and
WHEREAS, Title 29-A §2355 limits axle weights on the Interstate system-based upon 80,000 pounds, this pilot project will allow Maine general axle weight limits to govern axle weight restrictions on the interstate system for a 100,000 pound 3-axle truck tractor operating in combination with a tri-axle semi-trailer; and
WHEREAS, during this pilot project existing Maine laws governing 100,000 pound 3-axle truck tractor operating in combination with a tri-axle semi-trailer will apply to the Interstate system; and
WHEREAS, declaration of a State of Emergency enables the State to implement the federal pilot program, thereby increasing safety and lessening the burden on businesses and the State;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, John Elias Baldacci, Governor of the State of Maine, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of Maine, find that these conditions constitute a civil emergency under 37-B MRSA section 742, and do hereby declare that a State of Emergency exists for the entire State of Maine
This Emergency Proclamation shall remain in effect until I have declared the emergency to have terminated, or as otherwise provided by law.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have signed this proclamation in Augusta this 17th day of December in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Nine
John E. Baldacci