The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday unveiled a five-year, $260 billion bill that would reauthorize the United States' surface transportation programs. The committee's chairman, Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), called the initiative the most ambitious reform of the nation's transportation network since the Interstate Highway System was launched in 1956.
The bill, the "American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act," also gives states the power to allow single-trailer trucks with a gross vehicle weight of up to 97,000 pounds to operate on the nation's interstates. The current federal weight limit is set at 80,000 pounds.
The legislation would require the heavier trucks to be equipped with a sixth axle to maintain braking and handling characteristics at the higher weights. In addition, participating states would have the authority to exclude heavier trucks from operating on any route or bridge.
Shippers and truckers have supported the measure as a way to improve productivity and to reduce the truckloads, fuel, and vehicle miles necessary to meet increasing demand for freight transportation.
Critics of the measure, notably the nation's railroads, argue that it would compromise safety and accelerate the deterioration of the nation's already-crumbling infrastructure.
Currently, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire allow vehicles weighing 97,000 pounds or more and equipped with six axles on their interstates, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).