The U.S. Senate is considering a measure that would once again allow heavy trucks to use interstate highways in Maine and Vermont, making permanent a pilot program that wrapped up in December.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont helped place a provision in the 2012 transportation funding bill that would keep the trucks on the interstates permanently rather than forcing them to use secondary roads.
Currently, trucks weighing between 80,000 and 100,000 pounds are forbidden from using the interstates and they must use state roads that pass through towns in Maine and Vermont. When the pilot program was under way, heavy trucks disappeared almost completely from the secondary roads as truckers switched to interstate highways.
The transportation spending bill passed a hurdle in an appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday and will be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
Collins said the proposal to permanently ease restrictions on heavier trucks on interstates in Maine would make highways safer and cut down on fuel consumption. She said it’s supported by the state police, the state transportation department and other transportation and law enforcement organizations.
But a number of groups oppose the senators’ plan, saying heavy trucks are unsafe and cause too much wear and tear on highways and bridges. Joan Claybrook, chairwoman of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, on Tuesday decried the proposal as a "corporate giveaway" to the trucking industry.