U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discussed truck and rail issues with Henry County Board chairman Tim Wells during late March in Washington D.C. Wells told LaHood and U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Winfield) and Bobby Schilling (R- Colona)?that he opposes a proposal to increase the limits on truck weights and sizes.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discussed truck and rail issues with Henry County Board chairman Tim Wells during late March in Washington D.C.

Wells told LaHood and U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Winfield) and Bobby Schilling (R- Colona)?that he opposes a proposal to increase the limits on truck weights and sizes.

The chairman also said Henry County needs to keep a strong railroad network.

Wells was in Washington, D.C., with officials from more than 20 states, at the invitation of GoRail, a national, grassroots non-profit organization that promotes improvement of the nation’s freight rail system.

A supporter of the organization since his days as chairman of the Henry County Economic Development Partnership, Wells said he believes an improved and expanded freight rail system is one of the keys to economic development.

“In Henry County, we have 750 acres of land available for development that have railroads running nearby,” Wells said. “I believe any future consideration of economic development should always include rail.”

He noted the county was able to attract two ethanol plants and a wind farm because of the ability to move goods and equipment by rail.

Wells said the meeting with LaHood, a native of Illinois, was very fruitful.

“Secretary LaHood mentioned his fond memories of both Rock Island and Henry counties and his time spent with the Bi-State Regional Office,” Wells said. “The discussion also included the current condition of the I-74 bridge and the steps needed to eventually replace this bridge.”

One of the spans was built in 1935, the chairman noted.

In addition to Hultgren and Schilling, Wells met with other representatives and with staff of both senators.

The national weight limit on tractor-trailer trucks is 80,000 lbs. Two bills in the House would raise the limit by 17,000 to 19,000 pounds.

Wells argued that heavier trucks cause significantly more damage to roads and bridges.

Repairing the damagewould place an unfair financial burden on local communities, he said.

Heavier trucks worsen congestion and raise safety concerns, Wells said.
They also pull business from railroads.

According to an October 2010 study, allowing 97,000-pound trucks could add 7.8-million truck trips worth of freight on the nation’s highways.

Allowing double- and triple-trailer trucks could add 17.4-million truck trips worth of freight, the study said.