Legislature Approves Increased Interstate Weight Limit

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(Host) The Legislature has given its approval to the first major bill of the 2010 session.

The House and Senate on Tuesday both quickly approved legislation that would allow heavier trucks to use Vermont’s interstate highway system.

Currently, trucks weighing as much as 99,000 pounds can travel on state roads. But there’s a federal limit of 80,000 pounds for the interstates. That discrepancy has caused many trucks to go through Vermont’s downtowns as they travel across the state.

Late last year, Senator Patrick Leahy won approval in Congress for a one-year pilot project to allow the heavier trucks on the interstates. The action by the Legislature now puts the new rules into effect.

Senate President Peter Shumlin says the bill is good news for many of Vermont’s downtowns.

(Shumlin) "This act may well be the best thing we can do for our downtowns to help them revitalize and make them safer and more vibrant than any other single act."

(Host) John Zicconi is the director of planning at the Vermont Agency of Transportation.  His agency strongly supported the bill.

(Zicconi) "It’s safer because the trucks are no longer rumbling by schools and shopping centers and pedestrians. It’s better for the economy because the trucking companies, it will cost them less to run their goods. And hopefully that will come back to the consumers. And it’s better for the environment because from a greenhouse gas perspective, if a truck has to take the longer route with all the lights, they stop and start and burn more fuel and therefore spew more carbon."

(Host) Zicconi says the state hopes to win permanent approval for the plan when Congress considers its long-term transportation bill later this year.

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