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Maine’s Heavy Truck Proposal Puts Motorists, Bridges at Risk

Jan. 28, 2008

Maine’s Heavy Truck Proposal Puts Motorists, Bridges at Risk

Coalition of Safety Advocates Urges Federal Transportation Officials to Intervene

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A proposal by Maine officials to allow trucks weighing up to 105,000 pounds full access to the state’s highways and bridges greatly increases the likelihood of a catastrophic bridge collapse similar to the one in Minneapolis last summer, a coalition of safety groups said Friday.

In a letter to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Public Citizen, The Trauma Foundation, and the Truck Safety Coalition called on the agency to reject the state’s request to allow trucks weighing up to 105,000 pounds to travel on Interstate 95 between Augusta and the Canadian border and on Interstate 395 near Bangor. Currently, there is an 80,000-pound weight limit on those stretches of the interstate.

“Maine’s highways and bridges are already crumbling. Allowing even heavier trucks on the road just puts more stress on these structures,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The FHWA should take whatever action is necessary to keep Maine from putting heavier, more dangerous and destructive trucks on its highways and bridges.”

The groups also called on the FHWA to release a study it conducted that identifies seven interstate bridges in Maine that are in danger of failing, 73 bridges that were built below interstate standards and an additional 200 bridges on Maine’s interstate highways that the agency says were built for 80,000-pound trucks. The locations of those bridges have not been made public. A more recent study also mentions two bridges in Maine and two in New Hampshire that are similar in design to the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed in August in Minneapolis, killing 13 people.

A bill pending in the Maine Legislature would push the weight limit for logging trucks from 100,000 to 105,000 pounds.   It’s unclear whether this measure would also open the door for those trucks to travel on the sections of Interstate that are currently off limits to them.

“As a resident of Maine, I am outraged that the state would jeopardize the lives of Maine’s families and visitors,” said Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers.

Increasing the weight limit for trucks not only poses imminent safety hazards but also greatly increases highway and bridge maintenance and replacement costs for taxpayers. Studies done in Maine show that operators of heavy trucks are paying nowhere near their fair share to repair roads and bridges.

“FHWA knows well the dangers that these overweight trucks pose to motorists,” said Jackie Gillan, executive vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Maine’s motorists are paying with their lives and their wallets for this foolhardy policy.”

READ the letter sent to FHWA Administrator J. Richard Capka.