GRAND RAPIDS — Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently signed into law a bill that will allow larger trucks on state and local roads.
The bill, negotiated by members of both state chambers, will let 65-foot-long semi-trailers hauling construction materials to begin traveling on non-designated highways in the state on Jan 1, 2006.
The legislation also calls for a minimum flat fine for minor weight overloads, but keeps the state’s gross overweight fee schedule intact for serious violations.
The state’s trucking and road-building industries supported the bill.
A number of other statewide organizations, like the Michigan Municipal League, opposed it. But opponents softened their opposition after changes to the bill were negotiated.
Still, Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula doesn’t think it’s a good law.
Stypula, who announced his opposition to the legislation in October, said he was pleased with the result of local efforts to modify the bill, but didn’t like how it was passed.
“It still concerns me that this piece of legislation seemingly came out of nowhere during the lame duck legislative session and was on a fast track,” he said.
Washtenaw County Republican Gene DeRossett sponsored the bill. DeRossett chairs the House Transportation Committee and leaves the chamber this month due to term limits.
“It especially bothers me that the lobbyist from the Michigan Municipal League was not allowed to articulate the concerns of local units of government at the Senate Transportation Committee hearing that was held,” Stypula said.
In October, the league told its members that the bill would have significant consequences in the areas of public personal property damage and infrastructure planning.
Jud Gilbert, an Algonac Republican, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.
Stypula also is concerned that the longer and heavier trucks will contribute to more traffic congestion and have a harder time making right turns at intersections. But he doesn’t think that these semis will automatically chew up more pavement than is already battered.
“Local and state law enforcement folks are going to have to watch very carefully how trucks are loaded,” he said.
“What often happens with these aggregate trucks, especially, is the load can shift. As one turns a corner, it sometimes can put more weight over one axle than over the remaining axle. That is where you sometimes can find some problems in tearing up the roads,” he said.
The Metro Council approves road projects in the region, including repair and re-pavement work.
“But you want to be fair to those who rely on highway trucks to make deliveries and to extend the stream of commerce,” said Stypula.
Except for logging trucks, automobile haulers, buses, RVs, boat trailers and, in 2006, 65-foot-semis carrying construction materials, trucks must be 59 feet or shorter to travel on the non-designated highway system in Michigan — meaning county roads and local streets.
“It’s my understanding this bill still does allow local units — cities, villages and townships through the county road commission — to limit where those trucks can travel,” said Stypula.
“I would have preferred that this bill had not come up in the lame duck legislative session.”