A deal between two U.S. senators and the White House should keep heavy trucks not bound for central Maine off local roads for good.

The Obama administration said Friday it will permanently raise weight limits on interstate highways in Maine and Vermont, at the request of U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

A temporary rule that allows trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds on the interstate highways in the two states will be made permanent through a provision included in a federal appropriations bill. Before the pilot program began last year, trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds were prohibited on Interstate 95 north of Augusta.

Supporters say the increased weight limit saves time and energy and is safer because it gets trucks off rural and secondary roads. Critics say heavier trucks compromise the safety of other motorists and damage interstate highways and bridges.

“Increasing the federal highway truck weight limit on Maine’s interstate highways has always been one of my top priorities in the Senate,” Collins said in a news release Friday. “This increases the wear and tear on our secondary roads and jeopardizes the safety of drivers and pedestrians.”

Last year, Collins helped create the one-year pilot project that allowed trucks up to 100,000 pounds to travel on all Maine’s interstate highways. That measure was to expire on Dec. 17.

The U.S. Department of Transportation first notified Maine in 1994 it was in violation of federal vehicle weight requirements by allowing heavier trucks on the federal interstate. As a result, northbound trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds were forced off Interstate 95 in Augusta at the first exits after the northern end of the Maine Turnpike.

A June 2004 study by Wilbur Smith Associates suggested that extending the truck weight exemption to all federal highways in Maine would result in three fewer fatal crashes per year.

More than two dozen states have exemptions from the federal weight limits, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“making the pilot project permanent, Maine truckers will be able to transport more goods across the state more efficiently and more safely,” said Brian Parke, president and CEO of Maine Motor Transport Association. “Trucking companies will not have to worry about a day where their drivers are forced back onto the secondary roads to deliver the freight that drives our economy.”