Heavy Trucks Now Legal On Interstate

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas has signed a new bill into law that allows heavy trucks to travel on the interstate. 

The law goes into effect immediately and Vermont’s trucking industry says the measure will help relieve traffic congestion in many of the state’s downtown areas. 

VPR’s Bob Kinzel has more.

(Douglas) "I’m happy to sign it into law"… applause.

(Kinzel) With the stroke of a pen, the governor implemented a new law that’s expected to have a positive impact on the state’s economy and environment and the quality of life in a number of communities.

The legislation increases truck weight limits on the interstate to match the limits for state roads. Because the interstate had a lower limit, many trucks were forced to go through downtown areas to travel across the state.

Joe Barrett is a co-owner of Barrett’s Trucking in Burlington. Standing next to a large truck filled with road salt, Barrett explained how the new law will have a practical impact on his business and many towns:

(Barrett) "This particular load that he has is going to the city of Montpelier. To come up here this morning he went through the towns of Essex and Richmond and Waterbury and Middlesex. Whereas, now he’ll just jump on the interstate, he’ll get off at exit 8 and he’ll be in the city garage. The impact on the local communities will be tremendous."

(Kinzel) House Transportation chairman Pat Brennan says the new law will make a big difference to the traffic flow in many communities:

(Brennan) "It’s a great thing to get these trucks off our local towns. It’s a safety issue it’s a congestion issue and I think Vermonters will see the fruits of this effort in times to come and put these trucks on the interstate where they belong."

(Kinzel) One of the communities plagued by heavy truck traffic is Woodstock.  Allison Clarkson represents the town in the House:

(Clarkson) "We have narrow roads and it’s a safety issue because we have almost no shoulder, particularly between Quechee and Woodstock… It’s a huge impact and a big safety issue as we go around some of those corners. And truck encroachment is the safety issue – as much as we can shift onto the interstate we are delighted."

(Kinzel) The new law calls for a federal review of the change after it’s been in place for a year – state officials are optimistic that Congress will make the policy permanent when it considers a long term transportation bill later this year.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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