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Sen. Jerry Petrowski column: Get the facts on road weight issues

1:55 PM, Apr. 16, 2013  |  Comments
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A recent letter to the editor expressed confusion over comments I'd made on a number of different transportation issues. These issues are complicated and confusing if you don't understand them completely, so I thought it would be helpful to clarify some information.

Road weight issues require policymakers to strike a careful balance between preserving infrastructure and allowing necessary use to allow lives to proceed as normal and to grow our economy. While heavy truck traffic is responsible for a large amount of the wear on our roadways, it's also essential for our day-to-day lives. Everything you purchase at a store arrived there on a truck. Everything we make or grow locally has to get to a market somehow, and most of it is delivered on a truck. So yes, as the letter pointed out, we all pay to maintain our roads, but we also all benefit from their use.

The letter mentioned two specific issues I have been working on. First, at the request of Marathon County and local governments, I am working on gaining acceptance to allow logging trucks to operate on Highway 51 rather than local and county roads. Second, I am working to find ways to increase the load capacity for manure haulers that are using local roadways.

In regard to the logging trucks, gaining an allowance to operate on the interstate system is not passing the buck; rather, this is an effort to keep heavy truck traffic on roads that are engineered to a higher standard that will better withstand the weight of the trucks. The interstate system is built to handle higher traffic volume and is constructed with a thicker pavement and more base material beneath compared to local and county roads. The interstate system roads are also wider, provide a faster and more direct route to where the trucks are going, and are a safer option for high-volume truck traffic because of an absence of intersections and driveways. Therefore, allowing logging trucks to use the interstate is good for public safety and highway integrity, and helps to reduce long-term taxpayer cost.

The situation with manure is different. Those trucks must use local roads because they're traveling between multiple farm fields in the area. The service they provide is essential both to dairy farmers who need to dispose of the excess waste, and other local farmers who can use the natural fertilizer that manure provides to grow crops. This reduces the need to purchase inorganic fertilizer that increases the cost of food production and is reflected at your local cash register.

I am looking for ways to allow manure to be moved as efficiently as possible without causing further damage to local roads. So far, we have increased the load amount that manure trucks can haul during the fall each year when road beds are normally drier and in better condition to allow some additional weight. Furthermore, we are looking for other options and recommendations through the Department of Transportation, which has a working group made up of department staff and stakeholders.

It is unfortunate when people write letters to the editor in an effort to distort the truth. If a person was really confused on these issues, you would think he or she would do some research or call someone who knows the answers, not write a letter for political purposes. That's what's wrong with our society today. People need to work together to achieve the best results for our community, not try to attack and distort information to further their political agenda.

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