TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, Florida's 382 miles of I-95 is the most dangerous stretch of interstate highway in the country. Unfortunately, legislation signed last week has the potential to make Florida's state roads just as hazardous. HB 1271 allows for trucks traveling Florida's roadways to raise their maximum weight to 88,000 pounds.
"This weight increase not only damages Florida's transportation infrastructure, but also threatens people's lives," said Tom Guilmet, the Executive Director of the Florida Safety Council and member of the Florida Coalition for Safe Highways. "The added weight certainly impacts a truck's ability to safely maneuver on our roads, yet this legislation does nothing to require trucking operators to increase safety precautions. The amount of damage to our roads will also radically increase while failing to offer any solution to appropriately fund the resulting road repair and maintenance."
Friday, Governor Charlie Crist signed HB 1271 into law, potentially costing state and local governments $150 million a year in increased road maintenance costs. The omnibus transportation legislation included an 8,000-pound increase in allowable weights for big rigs. The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways, a coalition of public safety advocates, law enforcement officials and first-responders, is now looking to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to withhold issuing permits for heavier trucks.
According to a fiscal impact analysis report by the FDOT, increasing the legal load a truck can carry to 88,000 pounds will add millions of dollars to Florida's already extensive highway maintenance deficit. The passage of this bill will require local and state governments to spend approximately $150.7 million annually just to cover the additional costs for the infrastructure damage that will result from heavier trucks. This includes money for pavement resurfacing, bridge maintenance, bridge repair and additional bridge replacement. The report also found that local governments will see an increase in annual road maintenance spending by more than $66 million as a direct result of this legislation. With no dedicated funding source to cover these damages, Florida's taxpayers will front the bill for shippers' increased revenues.
"HB 1271 will risk the safety of Florida's citizens and the stability of our state's roadways," said Todd Soard, PhD, President of the Florida Association of Professional EMTs and Paramedics. "The most compelling objection to heavier trucks is the fact that they will cause more deaths and injuries on our highways. The risks to our state in terms of motorist safety and road maintenance have been negligently overlooked by lawmakers."
The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways was established in 1995 and includes a multitude of organizations and individuals opposed to truck weight increases. Visit www.cabt.org for more information.
Curtis Sloan, Florida Coalition for Safe Highways, 866-667-9728
SOURCE Florida Coalition for Safe Highways