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Senator Collins convinces House-Senate negotiators to approve plan to allow heavier trucks to use Maine’s federal interstates for at least 20 years

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, has successfully negotiated an agreement that would allow the heaviest trucks to travel on federal interstates in Maine for at least 20 years instead of forcing them off the highways and onto Maine’s secondary roads and downtown streets.

While the Senate originally approved Senator Collins’ provision to make this change permanent, the House never approved a similar provision.  As a member of the committee charged with working out the differences between the two bills, Senator Collins successfully negotiated this 20-year compromise agreement. Final votes in the House and Senate are expected next week.  The bill would then be sent to the President for his signature.

Senator Collins has led the effort to allow trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s federal interstates –including I-95, 195, 295, and 395.  Senator Collins has worked closely with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), also a member of the Transportation Subcommittee, and this agreement for Maine is paired with a similar change for Vermont.

“We faced significant opposition to our plan to permanently allow the heaviest trucks to drive on our federal interstates in Maine and Vermont,” said Senator Collins.  “But moving these trucks from our downtown streets and onto the federal interstates where they belong has always been one of my top transportation priorities.  The agreement that I negotiated to allow the heaviest trucks on the highway for at least the next 20 years is a major accomplishment that will help shippers, truckers, and Maine’s job creators.  More important, it will improve safety for Mainers who live, work, and go to school along the secondary roads, and busy downtowns where these trucks are currently forced to travel.”

Senator Collins’ effort is supported by the Association of Police, the Maine State Police, the State Troopers Association, the Maine Department of Public Safety, the Chiefs of Police, the Maine Motor Transport Association, the Parent Teacher Association, and the Bangor School Department, who have all expressed the importance of safety in getting these heaviest trucks off our local roadways and onto the interstates where they belong.

Currently, the heaviest trucks in Maine are diverted onto secondary roadways that cut through our downtowns on narrow streets, creating a major safety concern.  In most of the surrounding New England states and nearby Canadian provinces, the heaviest trucks are free to use the interstates, but not in Maine and Vermont.  This puts Maine businesses at a distinct competitive disadvantage.  Heavy trucks already operate on some 22,500 miles of non-interstate roads in Maine, in addition to the approximately 167 miles of the Maine Turnpike.  But the nearly 260 miles of non-Turnpike interstates that are major economic corridors are off limits.

In 2009, a pilot project that Senator Collins wrote, was included in the 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill.  This one-year pilot project allowed trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to travel on Maine’s federal interstates.  According to the Maine Department of Transportation, during the one-year period covered by the pilot, the number of crashes involving trucks on Maine’s local roads was reduced by 72 compared to a five-year average.