The Senate approved a $122 billion bill to fund transportation and housing projects for FY 2010, which will now go to Senate and House conferees to compromise separate versions of the bill.
On Sept. 17, senators voted 73-25 to allocate money for transportation, housing and urban development until October 2010. The current federal fiscal year expires Oct. 1.
The bill includes allowing a pilot program to exempt Maine’s Interstate highway system from the current federal truck weight limit.
Currently, trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds can use Interstate 95, designated as the Maine Turnpike and running from the Maine New Hampshire border to Augusta. These trucks are also permitted on Interstate highways in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec.
But the Maine Turnpike designation ends at Augusta. I-95 proceeds another 200 miles north to Houlton, so heavy truck drivers are forced onto secondary roads.
The bill’s Senate report on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notes safety has been improved, but much still needs to be done in this area and in oversight. It relied on reports from the transportation department’s Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and the National Transportation Safety Board
The legislation requires that the DOT submit an annual report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the “safety and security of transportation into the United States by Mexico-domiciled motor carriers.”
The bill also includes an amendment to provide technical and financial assistance to Illinois to conduct a feasibility study for consolidated freight and passenger rail through Springfield.