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Maine Considers Moving Heavy Trucks from State Roads to Interstate

If you're tired of seeing heavyweight tractor-trailer combinations on Maine's state roads, take heart. They may be disappearing shortly. According to recommendations set forth in a recent study by the Maine Department of Transportation, six-axle trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds should be diverted from state roads to the federal Interstate Highway System.

Why wasn't this done sooner? The Interstate Highway System had a weight limit of 80,000 pounds, while Maine allowed trucks up to 100,000 pounds on state roads and the Maine Turnpike. Until December 2009, the federal limits required the heaviest trucks to get off the interstate and onto smaller, more congested state roads with intersections, driveways, crosswalks, and other hazards. However, in December 2009, the United States Congress authorized Maine to use the state's 100,000-pound limit on Maine's interstate highways for one year to determine whether the federal highway system in Maine could handle the heavier trucks.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation's September 20, 2010, study, moving the heavier trucks to the interstates was a huge success. One part of the study involved truck transit on two parallel highways, Interstate 95 and Route 2, from Hampden to Houlton. The I-95 route was actually one mile longer, yet travel time on that interstate was 55 minutes shorter. The reason for this was simple: By taking the interstate, the trucks were able to avoid more than 270 intersections, 30 traffic lights, 86 crosswalks, nine school crossings, and 3,000 driveways.

Using the interstate provided environmental benefits as well. Trucks used 10 fewer gallons of diesel fuel on I-95 than what was required on the state road. Overall, experts estimate that a fuel savings of 14 to 21 percent can be obtained by switching to the interstate. Also, state officials believe that carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by up to two metric tons daily. Maine further estimates that it will be able to save up to $2 million annually on road and bridge maintenance.

Further studies of the bridges and overpasses on Maine's interstate highways revealed that these could easily withstand the increased heavy traffic with no adverse effects. If you're not a fan of having heavy tractor-trailers rumble through your town and past your driveway, they could soon become a thing of the past. They're not disappearing though. You'll still see them out on the interstate.