Friday, August 13, 2010

Making highways, travel worse

Only half of the story is being told by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, about his legislation to allow heavier, bigger trucks on U.S. highways.

Heavier trucks means faster delivery of more freight, Crapo says, echoing hyperbole of the American Trucking Association, whose interests Crapo rubberstamped by championing an increase in the present highway weight limit of 80,000 pounds (40 tons) to 97,000 pounds (48.5 tons)—the equivalent of eight more cars on highways for each 17,000 pounds of new weight allowed by Crapo's legislation.

What Crapo and the ATA don't mention is the added damage heavier trucks will inflict on the nation's already deteriorating road system, part of the scandalously neglected national infrastructure because of political unwillingness to fund repairs.

Bolstered by support from Idaho's U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick, Crapo would increase the peril to motorists on highways and bridges where disrepair has left severe cracks and rut-like impressions from heavy truck traffic.

Major trucking firms might well save money and increase profits, as Crapo argues. But who will pay for added highway upkeep? Sen. Crapo isn't one to add fuel or licensing taxes on truckers.

Just last July, a study commissioned by Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter estimated that truckers are underpaying their share of upkeep by 14 to 27 percent, while private auto owners are overpaying.

Idaho, as well as other states, are years behind in bringing roads and bridges up to engineering standards.

Suddenly legalizing a crushing new load of heavier trucks on poorly maintained highways and bridges borders on the irrational.

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