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Weight limit may increase on U.S. 93

A semitrailer drives south on U.S. 93 Monday over the I.B. Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — A proposed increase to the weight limit on sections of U.S. 93 and Idaho 75 could mean fewer, but heavier, trucks will cross a dozen south-central Idaho bridges each year — including the iconic I.B. Perrine Bridge.

The Idaho Transportation Department allows trucking companies to apply for weight limit increases on a section of highway. The agency will have two public hearings this week regarding requests to increase heavy truck weight limits on Idaho 75 and U.S. 93. The requests were made by Capps Inc. in Jerome and Glanbia Nutritionals in Twin Falls.

The first proposal would increase weight limits on Idaho 75 from the intersection of U.S. 26 in Shoshone all the way to Airport Way in Hailey. The second would increase weight limits on U.S. 93 from the intersection with U.S. 30 in Twin Falls to the intersection with Idaho 25 east of Jerome.

If approved, certain types of shipments with over-legal permits could weigh up to 129,000 pounds on these routes.

“The intent is to allow trucking companies to reduce the number of shipments by being allowed to add that extra weight,” ITD Public Involvement Coordinator Adam Rush said.

If approved, both proposals would benefit all trucking companies with “reducible loads” — loads with multiple items that can be shifted or removed easily. ITD reports that it issued 38,370 over-legal permits for reducible loads in 2018, making up 53 percent of all over-legal permits statewide.

On Idaho’s highways, all commercial vehicles weighing more than 80,000 pounds — or exceeding certain weight and height requirements — are required to obtain an over-legal permit. Even with a permit, reducible loads are limited to 105,500 pounds on some Idaho highways, while other routes have been approved for up to 129,000 pounds.

Non-reducible loads are different because they contain a single part — such as a grain silo or wind turbine — that cannot be easily disassembled or reduced in size. These shipments could theoretically weigh any amount as long as they get proper permitting and meet axle requirements and dimension restrictions, Rush said.

The public can comment on either application until Sept. 27, or during the hearings this week. ITD District IV board member Jim Kempton will hear comments on the Idaho 75 proposal from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Minnie Moore Room of the Community Campus in Hailey at 1050 Fox Acres Road. The U.S. 93 proposal will be heard from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce, 2015 Neilsen Point Place.

After the comment period ends, a subcommittee will look at the comments and give a recommendation to the transportation board for final approval. ITD has already done an engineering analysis of both roadways.

U.S. 93 — U.S. 30 to Idaho 25

On average, 1,229 commercial vehicles travel U.S. 93 from Twin Falls to Jerome each day. A weight limit change here could not only result in fewer trucks on the road — but it could mean less damage to the pavement.

Where there’s cheese being made, there’s liquid whey. Every day, Glanbia Nutritionals hauls about 950,000 pounds of liquid whey from its Twin Falls plant to its Richfield plant. In Richfield, the whey is converted into ingredients for protein powders.

At current weight limits, Glanbia sends out about 14 loads per day — or 5,110 annually — the company said in its application. But on U.S. 93 between Twin Falls and Idaho 25, the loads are restricted to 105,500 pounds. U.S. 93 south of Twin Falls and north of Jerome, however, is already approved for 129,000-pound trucks.

“Allowing trucks to haul at the heavier weight limit will reduce three trips per day or 1,000 loads per year,” Glanbia said in its application. “This will be a reduction in loaded trucks as well as empty trucks.”

That would mean 1,000 fewer trucks crossing the I.B. Perrine Bridge and two canal bridges along U.S. 93 between Twin Falls and Jerome. ITD has determined that all three of these bridges will safely support 129,000-pound vehicles.

Because more axles are required for heavier vehicles, ITD has determined that the new weight limit would reduce the load per axle, thereby resulting in equal or lesser damage to the road.

Idaho 75 — Shoshone to Hailey

On average, this stretch of highway serves as a route for 520 commercial vehicles each day.

Capps Inc. has operated out of Jerome for more than 100 years, hauling hay, straw, grain and compost between farms, dairies and feedlots. But over that time, the cost of fuel has risen and it’s gotten harder to stay competitive. Increased tonnage could help.

“When you’re paid by the weight that you haul, this is paramount,” said partner Brian Capps.

Capps is asking to change the weight limit from 105,500 to 129,000 pounds. This would help farms in the Bellevue area also be more competitive with those near Carey, where heavier truck routes already exist, he said.

Capps Inc. makes about 1,000 trips annually on Idaho 75 from Hailey to Shoshone.

“It will absolutely have a positive impact on the number of trips our company and other companies will have on that road,” Capps said of the weight limit increase.

In ITD’s evaluation of the Idaho 75 request, the state determined pavement was in good to fair condition along the route, with exception of a 0.3-mile section in Hailey that is rated as “poor and deficient.”

Additionally, the state determined that nine bridges along the route are all capable of supporting 129,000-pound trucks.

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