Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced legislation that has broad support from Wisconsin's business community to allow trucks currently operating on Highway 41 in Wisconsin to continue to use the highway once it has been converted to a federal Interstate.
The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Baldwin and Senator Ron Johnson, would grandfather in the current weight limits on Wisconsin's portion of U.S. Highway 41 before the highway becomes part of the federal Interstate Highway System in 2014. Baldwin previously supported the same legislation when she served as a member of the House of Representatives.
"It is crucial Congress approve this effort by the end of this year, before the highway becomes part of the federal Interstate Highway System in 2014," Senator Baldwin said, "In order to grow our "Made in Wisconsin' economy, we must provide businesses with the quality transportation system they need to move their goods to market. This legislation will ensure that and help strengthen our economy."
Trucks presently operating on Highway 41 can weigh up to 97,000 pounds but federal law limits interstate roadways to a gross vehicle weight limit of 80,000 pounds, a significantly lower weight limit than Wisconsin's state law permits. Senator Baldwin's legislation would allow the heavier trucks to continue to operate on a stretch of interstate highway between Green Bay and the Wisconsin/Illinois border. A similar provision was previously enacted for I-39 in Wisconsin.
Without this bill, many trucks will be forced off Highway 41 and onto local, rural roads. Such a move would restrict how goods are moved into and out of the state, thereby restricting both commerce and transportation activities in Wisconsin. The 131 mile segment of Highway 41 between Milwaukee and Green Bay represents one of Wisconsin's vital economic arteries. Nearly a quarter of all state-based manufacturers and retail establishments are located along the route, while businesses throughout the state use the highway to ship their products.
In the House, U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble and Tom Petri have proposed companion legislation, which has earned support from both Democratic and Republican members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation. On Thursday, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will meet to mark up the bill.
The effort to pass legislation is supported by the Wisconsin business, manufacturing and agriculture community, including: Aggregate Producers of Wisconsin; American Trucking Associations; City of Oshkosh; FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative; Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce; Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce; Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association; Heart of the Valley Chamber of Commerce; Midwest Equipment Dealers Association; Midwest Food Processors Association; Northeast Wisconsin Chambers Coalition; Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce; Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association Transportation Development Association; Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce; Westside Association; Winnebago County Highway Commissioner; Winnebago County Highway Committee; Winnebago County Board Chairman; Wisconsin Agri-Business Association; Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association; Wisconsin Automotive Aftermarket Association; Wisconsin Automotive Parts Association; Wisconsin Bankers Association; Wisconsin Concrete Pavement Association; Wisconsin Counties Association; Wisconsin Dairy Business Association; Wisconsin Earth Movers Association; Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; Wisconsin Grocers Association; Wisconsin Housing Alliance Wisconsin Independent Businesses; Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce; Wisconsin Milk Haulers Association; Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association; Wisconsin Paper Council; Wisconsin Petroleum Council; Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association; Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association; Wisconsin Restaurant Association; Wisconsin Towns Association; Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association.