Vermont governor signs bill for heavier trucks

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — With an 18-wheeler behind him and the Statehouse in front, Gov. Jim Douglas on Wednesday signed into law a measure allowing heavier trucks on Vermont interstates.

Under a one-year pilot project OK’d for Maine and Vermont, trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds won’t have to stick to local roads — going through villages, towns and residential neighborhoods — and can instead use highways previously off-limit to those over 80,000 pounds.

“The biggest issue will be the time saving, and the safety of getting us off these local roads,” said Joe Barrett, operations manager of Barrett Trucking, in Burlington. “We always have these towns that do not want us on the road.”

The state’s quick action — the bill was approved Tuesday in the House and Senate — came after U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy authored federal legislation to extend the one-year pilot program to Vermont.

State and federal transportation officials plan to evaluate the impact of heavier trucks on the interstates in the areas of highway safety, bridge and road durability and energy use.

The truck that was positioned outside the Statehouse for the bill-signing ceremony Wednesday was carrying 28 tons of salt headed to the City of Montpelier’s garage.

To get it there from Burlington, the driver had to travel through the towns of Essex, Richmond, Waterbury and Middlesex — instead of taking Interstate 89, a direct route, according to Barrett.

Douglas said the change would save energy by allowing more product to be loaded onto trucks and by eliminating much of the time the trucks spend idling or moving slowly through villages and towns.

“This is critically important to our state’s economic future, as we seek to make it easier for employers to succeed in a time of economic stress, to create more jobs and too encourage economic activity across our state,” said Douglas.