Lawmakers discuss Leo Frigo Bridge, truck weight limits

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 2.09.04 PMLast month’s Leo Frigo Bridge closure, caused by reports of the bridge sagging, has sparked further debate about truck weight regulations.

Heavy truck opponents are pushing for stricter weight restrictions on bridges, while supporters look to increase weight limits, Politico reported in its Morning Transportation on Tuesday.

Representative Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), who originally co-sponsored a bill that would allow states to increase weight limits from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds, said the key to implementing higher weight limits is to require a sixth axle. Ribble said the sixth axle reduces the per-tire load. The bill, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013, would require a sixth axle while increasing the user fee for heavy trucks, sending the funds collected from the fee to bridge work.

Ribble added that he doesn’t believe that heavy trucks had anything to do with the sagging of the Leo Frigo Bridge.

“If we take a look specifically at Frigo, the issue has nothing to do with weights of trucks or cars. … It didn’t go down because a car or truck drove over it,” Ribble said. “They’re trying to make something here that doesn’t exist.”

However, Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said trucks have an obvious impact on highways and bridges.

“You don’t have to be an engineer to figure out that bigger and heavier trucks put more wear and tear on highways, do more damage to bridges and are safety hazards,” McGovern said.

McGovern added that the U.S. Department of Transportation needs to complete its study on truck size and weight before lawmakers decide on any changes.

“We’ve agreed to have the DOT do a study. We ought to do a study,” McGovern said. “We ought not to be screwing around with the law until this study is done and then we can have a debate.”