Bennett Lumber Products Inc. of Princeton requested the Idaho Transportation Department increase the maximum commercial truck load from 105,500 pounds to 129,000 pounds on portions of three state highways in Latah County.

The three routes are State Highway 6 from U.S. Highway 95 to Harvard, State Highway 9 from Harvard to Deary and State Highway 8 from Deary to Highway 95. Highway 95 is allowed to carry 129,000-pound loads, ITD Public Information Officer Megan Sausser said.

Sausser said ITD officials found that allowing the 23,500 extra pounds on the three routes would not affect safety and pavement conditions — typically the public’s top two concerns, she said. Sausser said bridges could also accommodate the extra load.

“At this point, engineering wise, the routes can safely accommodate that heavier load without any compromise in safety,” Sausser said.

Brett Bennett, vice president of Bennett Lumber Products, said most state highways south of the Salmon River allow 129,000-pound loads, which puts Bennett’s competitors who use those roads ahead of the game.

“It puts us at an economic disadvantage in comparison to them,” Bennett said.

He said the increased load would benefit Bennett Lumber Products’ customers more than the Princeton lumber business itself. For example, he said it might take three trucks to transport lumber on 105,500-pound roads but only two trucks on 129,000-pound roads, saving the buyer money.

“We have a lot of customers in the Boise area that will benefit from this heavier weight,” Bennett said.

Bennett said Bennett Lumber Products also requested reclassification of the routes because of the discontinuation of service on the Washington, Idaho and Montana Railway, which Bennett Lumber Products used until it shut down about two years ago.

If the request is approved, Bennett Lumber Products and any other truck would be allowed to haul a 129,000-pound load.

ITD is collecting comments from the public on the proposal until Dec. 21.

Sausser said ITD has already received a lot of comments and hopes to get more. She said requested load increases on state highways tend to be controversial among the public.

Sausser said a big misconception is people think 129,000-pound routes will increase truck traffic but there is typically a reduction in overall truck traffic. She said companies are normally able to use fewer trucks to haul the same amount of product because of the increased load allowance.

Sausser said another concern among people is that an increase in loads will make it more difficult for trucks to stop. But Sausser said the vehicles are still able to stop safely because the extra truck axles — each axle has brakes — to accommodate the larger loads lead to more braking power. She said the extra axles also distribute the heavier load more evenly, which prevents pavement damage.

The application, analysis by ITD and frequently asked questions about 129,000-pound loads are available at itd.idaho.gov/freight, according to an ITD news release.

Public comments can be submitted via itd.idaho.gov/freight, by emailing officeofthechiefengineer@itd.idaho.gov, mailed to P.O. Box 7129, Boise, Idaho 83707 to the attention of Scott Luekenga and recorded by calling (855) 785-2499. Commenters can also call ITD Freight Program Manager Scott Luekenga at (208) 334-8057 with questions.

The release said the department is required to conduct an analysis and public hearing on all requests to operate 129,000-pound loads on the state highway system before the Idaho Transportation Board makes a final decision. The board could make a decision as early as January.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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