Today, U.S. Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI) and Reid Ribble (R-WI), both members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced legislation to ensure currently-operating trucks can continue to use the future Interstate 41, which is set to officially be designated an Interstate Highway as early as next year.
"Highway 41 is the economic lifeline of the Fox Valley," said Petri, who is the Chairman of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee. "All kinds of trucks use Hwy. 41 to transport timber, scrap materials, and agriculture products throughout our state, and these goods and products are often sent across the country using this roadway."
"Highway 41 plays a vital role in Wisconsin's economy," said Rep. Ribble. "As an interstate, 41 will remain essential for transporting goods across the state and country, and this legislation will ensure our trucks will have continued access to it. Wisconsin manufacturers and farmers rely on our roadways, and it's important that they continue to have the means to deliver their products and materials to consumers."
Under federal law, trucks over 80,000 lbs. in gross vehicle weight cannot operate on Interstate highways. Many have raised concerns that this federal weight limit would harm the local economy in Wisconsin and pose safety risks for communities because oversized trucks would be forced to use local roadways.
Petri and Ribble's bill would grandfather in currently-operating trucks when Highway 41 is designated as part of the Interstate Highway System. Similar provisions have been enacted for previous future-Interstate highway designations, such as I-39 in Wisconsin and I-99 in Pennsylvania. Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), state legislators, local communities, and business groups have expressed support for Petri and Ribble's bill.
"What we're saying is simply if you can operate now, you can operate in the future," said Petri. "We aren't looking to create any exemptions or change truck size and weight limits, but this is a matter of being fair and realistic."
Rep. Petri successfully included provisions designating Hwy. 41 as a future Interstate in the 2005 transportation law, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Highway 41 is the main thorough way through central Wisconsin from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Twenty-three percent of the state's manufacturing, retail, and wholesale businesses are located along Highway 41, and the highway is responsible for generating 29% of Wisconsin's tourism dollars.