WASHINGTON – Trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds will be allowed back on all Maine interstates for 20 years under an agreement reached late Thursday by House and Senate negotiators, Sen. Susan Collins announced.

Collins, R-Maine, co-authored the provision allowing the heavier trucks to use all interstate highways in Maine as part of a broader 2012 spending bill approved this month by the Senate.

Currently, trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds can use only the Maine Turnpike from Kittery to Augusta and must use other roads elsewhere around the state. Collins co-authored the truck weight provision with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and it also grants that state a truck weight exemption.

But the truck weight provision was not in the House version of the spending bill. Collins, the top Republican on the Senate’s transportation appropriations subcommittee, has been part of the House-Senate conference committee reconciling the differing versions.

Collins’ original provision granted a permanent exemption for trucks on Maine and Vermont interstates. House negotiators agreed instead to a 20-year exemption.

“We faced significant opposition to our plan to permanently allow the heaviest trucks to drive on our federal interstates in Maine and Vermont,” Collins said Thursday in a statement. “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.”

The truck weight measure has been long sought by the Maine congressional delegation, state officials and many residents worried about big rigs banned from the highway rumbling through intersections and past homes, businesses and schools. For a year, the heavier trucks were largely absent from side roads. But last December, a federal pilot program allowing access to all Maine interstates lapsed.

There are opponents to Maine’s exemption, including the railroad industry; and to the use of heavier trucks in general. Critics say the heavier trucks tear up highways and that the heavier weights make them unsafe to operate on any road.

Final House and Senate votes on the overall spending bill are expected next week. The Maine truck weight provision would be in effect as soon as President Obama signs the legislation.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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