BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Lee County Engineer Ben Hull is concerned a proposed bill in in front of Iowa legislators could damage county bridges and roadways.
Senate File 184 was passed out of a senate subcommittee on Feb. 21 and Hull brought the issue to the attention of the Lee County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
A resolution is on the agenda for the upcoming Tuesday meeting that would outline the county’s opposition to the new bill.
In summary, the bill would allow vehicles hauling raw forest products to exceed maximum gross weight limits on state roads up to a maximum total weight of 130,000 pounds.
“A vehicle or combination of vehicles for which a permit is issued under the bill may exceed the maximum gross weight limitations set forth under Code Section 321.463, if the combined gross weight or gross weight of the vehicle or combination of vehicles does not exceed 130,000 pounds,” according to the bill.
The bill also has axle limitations and prohibits haulers exceeding weight limitations from using the interstate highways in the state. The bill’s language spells out that haulers can use Iowa’s primary roads on direct routes from the field to processing facilities.
County advocacy groups such as the Iowa State Associations of Counties and the Iowa Association of County Supervisors, in addition to BNSF and Union Pacific, are opposed to the current legislation.
Hull told supervisors that county engineers are actively lobbying against the bills.
“They’ve been putting out updates and last week they kind of sounded the alarm on this,” Hull said. “This bill would allow a permit to be issued specific to logging and forestry industry that would allow products to be transported on loads up to 130,000 lbs which would be extremely detrimental to our road systems.”
Lee County bridges are rated at 80,000 lbs.
Hull said Lee County bridges aren’t designed for that kind of weight load.
“Particularly the older bridges, they certainly weren’t designed for 130,000 pounds. Each bridge is different but there are many things that factor into what a bridge can hold up in terms of a load, including the age and condition, but also the design,” he said.
Hull said the state would also be setting a scary precedent with other industries who are watching how the bill progresses through the legislature.
“You can bet the other industries are watching and, if this bill gets through, it could open the floodgates,” Hull said.
“Absolutely,” said board chair Gary Folluo.
Hull said Lee County currently has 138 bridges and he said the majority of those are over 30 years old.
“Many of them are much older than that,” Hull said.
“I think, without a doubt, this would translate into gradual and sudden failure of the bridges.”
He also reminded the board that school buses are using those bridges as well, in addition to the county being legally liable for any accidents on county roads that could occur as a result of the heavier weight loads.
In other action at Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors:
- will hold a public hearing on the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.
- will hold a third and final reading on a proposed ATV/UTV ordinance that will allow legal riding on secondary gravel roads from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
- will consider a resolution setting a $25 annual permit for ATVs/UTVs operated in the county.