12.16.09

President Signs Leahy Legislation Aimed At Reducing Heavy Truck Traffic In Vermont Downtowns

. . . Pilot Program Will Test Impact Of Moving Heavier Trucks To Vermont’s Interstates

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16) – President Obama Wednesday signed into law a bill that includes legislation authored by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that will create a pilot program in Vermont to move heavy trucks off state secondary roads and onto the state’s Interstate highways for one year, using the practical experience to evaluate impacts on highway safety, bridge and road durability, commerce, truck volumes and energy use in Vermont.

Leahy said, “Overweight trucks have become a reality in Vermont through a combination of state policy and neighboring states’ policies on truck weights.  This will get these trucks out of our downtowns, while giving us a baseline of actual experience to make long-term decisions about whether it is safer and better for both our infrastructure and the environment to have these trucks use the Interstate system.”

Leahy included his provision in the annual transportation funding bill.  Leahy is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of its transportation subcommittee, which handled the Senate’s work in writing the bill.  The bill also includes a similar pilot program in Maine.  

Current federal law restricts trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds from regularly using the nation’s Interstate highway system.  But portions of the Interstate network in neighboring states allow higher-weight trucks to operate on those Interstates due to special circumstances, from tolling to grandfather clauses.  These exceptions, combined with a state law that allows trucks over 80,000 pounds to operate on Vermont’s secondary roadways, have resulted in overweight truck traffic traveling through Vermont on some of the state’s smaller roadways, creating safety concerns and putting pressure on the state’s aging transportation infrastructure.

Leahy said the program will help determine whether or not the new option will help ease truck traffic in commercial and residential areas like Derby Line, where heavy trucks from Canada are forced to exit from Interstate 91 to take U.S. Route 5 South through Vermont.  Leahy said he has heard similar stories of overweight truck traffic taking state routes along the Interstate from several communities, including in Burlington along U.S. Routes 2 and 7, in Brattleboro along U.S. Route 5, and in St. Johnsbury along U.S. Routes 2 and 5.

Leahy and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have been working with state and municipal officials across Vermont to find a solution to the problem of excessive numbers of overweight trucks rumbling through downtowns and villages.  Sanders and Welch supported the Leahy provision.   

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