Florida Rep. facing tough re-election targets big rigs

| 8/23/2002

U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park) urged Florida transportation officials to consider pulling semis off I-4 and I-95 during rush hours and possibly lower the speed limit for big rigs.

Mica told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday he is urging transportation officials to look at routing truck traffic onto the Central Florida Greene Way around Orlando to keep tractor-trailers out of downtown areas where traffic clogs.

In a released statement Mica also said the state should look at whether to lower the speed limit for big rigs and restrict them to certain lanes on the interstates, and whether to tighten licensing requirements for drivers of tractor-trailers.

"I have a whole list of options," said Mica, who is facing a tough re-election battle. "And I want to explore every one." Mica called his plans "simple solutions" to "what is becoming a very big problem."

James Long, director of operations for the Florida Trucking Association, said it had "grave" reservations about any plans to limit commercially licensed trucks from using I-4 and I-95. "Trucks are already highly regulated in our state," he said.

Long told Land Line there were several accidents involving semis on interstates the week before Mica's press release came out. "Mica is well-positioned in the state," he said. "We'll have to see what comes of this. I agree that traffic exceeds the speed limit most of the time on interstates, but maybe the solution is to lower the speed limits for everyone."

Motorists and truckers alike are concerned with Florida roads and the fact that statewide, the number of accidents involving cars and trucks is increasing. Truckers, however, feel that Mica's solution is not fair or even sensible. "It's ridiculous. What Mica fails to bring into the equation is passenger cars and the behavior of their drivers," says Florida trucker Paul Sasso of Edgewater. "What's their responsibility in this?" According to a recent AAA study, in more than 70 percent of all fatal auto and truck crashes, police report that the automobile driver was cited.

Mica said his proposals weren't based on historical data, just the series of recent wrecks. "All I can tell you is there have been several lately," he said to reporters.

State transportation officials reportedly have said they're eager to work with Mica. However, some of his proposals may not work for Central Florida. For example, Long said some studies suggest that split speeds for trucks and passenger cars may cause more problems than they solve.
--Donna Carlson, staff writer