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Lowboy Trailers, Barge Identifications, Funding and TRIP Reports

Friday, March 30, 2012   (0 Comments)
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LOWBOY TRAILERS:  Legislature passes major success for heavy construction industry

Legislation that would no longer require lowboy trailers to get over length permits has overwhelmingly passed the full House and Senate and now awaits Governor Rick Snyder’s signature.  Senate Bill 582, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, would extend the allowable lowboy trailer length to 59 feet, no longer requiring companies to get special over length permits for these trailers.  Currently, lowboy trailers are required to obtain a special permit in order to haul equipment.  This permit, however, is invalid at the point in which the equipment has been unloaded and puts companies at risk of being cited for an illegal trailer when returning to their yard.  MITA staff’s efforts with MDOT and the Michigan State Police resulted in the legislation to solve the problem.

During the legislative process, language within Senate Bill 582 was amended into Senate Bill 35 introduced by Senator Mike Nofs, which means that his legislation is the official bill that will reach the governor’s desk.  We anticipate, given the overwhelming support in both the House and Senate (in fact only seeing one single no vote in both chambers combined), that Governor Snyder will sign the legislation in quick fashion.  MITA appreciates Senator Tom Casperson for sponsoring and advocating the initial legislation and those lawmakers who voted in favor of this important measure for our industry.

NEW IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR BARGES ARE SIGNED INTO LAW

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed House Bill 4847 into law that would require increased identification requirements for barges including owner information as well as increased lighting.  Beginning November 1, 2012, an owner of a barge is required to place his or her name, address, and telephone number in a prominent place on the hull of the barge in light-reflective letters, in a contrasting color, and not less than six inches tall.  In addition to lighting requirements already in place, this new legislation requires a barge operator to ensure that the barge is properly lit with four or more white lights from sunset to sunrise and during periods of limited visibility, if any of the following apply: the barge projects into a restricted channel or into a channel established by buoys; the barge is moored, so that it reduces the available navigable width of a channel; the barge is not parallel to the bank or dock to which it is moored; and/or, the barge is moored as part of a group of two or more barges.

If either of the following applies, the lights described above must be placed as follows: if the barge or group formation of barges is positioned so that vessel may navigate on one or more sides of the barge or group formation of barges, the lights must be displayed on each outside corner of the barge or group formation; if the barge projects from a group formation, the lights must be displayed on the corners of the projecting barge that are outboard of the group.

The light requirements described above must meet the requirements of the rules established in the Michigan Administrative Code and must be positioned in a manner and bright enough to be visible from any direction for at least one nautical mile at night under clear conditions. The new requirements also specify that a group of barges cannot be moored together if the total width of the barges exceeds 82 feet. It also gives the department or local jurisdiction authority to order a moored vessel in violation of this bill that poses a navigational hazard to be moved immediately. If the vessel is not moved, they would be permitted to move it.

FUNDING

Legislation that redistributes money that is collected from the sales tax on gasoline that isn’t constitutionally or statutorily dedicated passed the full Senate this week. In swift fashion as well, a hearing has already been held on the bill in the House Committee on Transportation just before lawmakers went on spring break.  Senate Bill 351 introduced by Senator John Proos would take 18% of the first 4% of the sales tax on gasoline and statutorily dedicate that money to the state trunk-line fund.  Currently that money, which is estimated to be about $136 million in fiscal year 2012 – 2013, is put into the general fund for the state’s budget, funding various programs unrelated to transportation.  The main reason behind the legislation is to ensure that the state meets its federal match for fiscal year 2012 – 2013 and in the years to come.  Because of declining revenues over the past several years, the state has had to use “creative” measures to come up with enough money for the state’s federal match including using toll credits as was done last year.

Although MITA is encouraged by any increases to funding our state’s infrastructure, money raised through this measure falls far short of the overall need that exists, which continues to grow on a daily basis.  This measure will increase revenues by approximately $100 million annually, which is one small step towards the $1.4 billion needed annually to maintain our infrastructure in Michigan. The legislature’s first priority should be to make absolutely certain that we don’t leave any federal dollars on the table and Senate Bill 351 accomplishes that for the next fiscal year and in the near future.  Hopefully, the movement on this bill will bring with it momentum to the overall debate on transportation funding in Michigan.

NEW REPORT

A new report from TRIP, a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues, was released this week.  The report examines the current condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges and analyzes what levels of funding are needed to improve those conditions.  One unique aspect of the TRIP report is the finding of costs to Michigan citizens due to poor roads and bridges.  TRIP estimates bad roads cost the average Michigan household $3,014 a year and expects that number will rise to $3,649 by 2022 if current funding levels remain the same.  By investing more to improve road conditions, those estimated costs per household could decline to $1,745 according to the report.

To view the entire report, please click here.


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