Keeping our roads and bridges drivable is one of the highest priorities I have in Stanislaus County. In fact, it’s a top priority for public works departments throughout California.
As the immediate past president of the County Engineers Association of California, I know firsthand the issues faced by my fellow engineers in keeping our roads and bridges safe for public use.
One of the biggest issues we are staring down right now is a federal proposal to allow heavier and longer trucks to operate on our local roads.
While trucks are vital to our economy, the idea of bigger trucks on our roads is one I cannot support. But special interests in Washington, D.C., are asking Congress to do exactly that.
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Two years ago, Congress rejected a proposal to allow 91,000-pound trucks and longer double-trailer trucks on interstate highways. This was a wise decision.
However, both these proposals have resurfaced on Capitol Hill.
While proponents make the case that these bigger trucks would operate on interstates, they fail to point out that virtually every truck starts and ends its journey traveling on local roads and crossing bridges. And our local infrastructure is not built to the same standards as those on interstate highways.
A study released last year by the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that raising the allowable weight for trucks from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds would create over $1 billion in bridge repairs and replacement costs on interstate highways.
Also, while the study only looked at roughly 20 percent of these bridges, what I find troubling is that USDOT did not even look at the effects these heavier trucks would have on local infrastructure. There is no way to estimate the additional damage bigger trucks will do. But one outcome is for sure: it will be California taxpayers who will shoulder the burden of fixing it.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, roughly 27 percent of California bridges on the National Highway System are in fair to poor condition. However, when you look at the bridges in proximity to the NHS, almost 40 percent of California bridges are in fair to poor condition. Adding bigger, heavier trucks will only make this situation worse.
Members of California’s congressional delegation should reject any efforts to allow heavier or longer trucks on local roads. The consequences of any increases to allow bigger trucks will be very costly to California taxpayers. Just as importantly, it will endanger local motorists.
I urge Congress, and our representatives, to reject heavier and longer trucks.
Matthew J. Machado is Stanislaus County director of public works and immediate past president of the County Engineers Association of California. He has over 20 years experience as a civil engineer within local government community, specializing in roadway and bridge maintenance and replacement.