Lawmakers eye split speeds for New Jersey's rural highways

| Friday, October 27, 2006

A bill that is still active as time winds down on the regular session in New Jersey would eliminate uniform speeds on rural highways in the state.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow, R-Hunterdon, the bill would require trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds - and for trucks hauling hazardous materials regardless of weight - to be slowed by 10 mph to 55 mph. All other vehicles would be allowed to continue to travel at the current 65 mph limit.

Karrow's bill is similar to two failed efforts in the past few years by her predecessor, Assemblywoman Connie Myers. Neither bill made it out of committee.

Myers' original proposal came after a horrific day nearly four years ago when three separate accidents on Interstates 80, 287 and 78 - all involving trucks - killed three people, injured six and delayed thousands of commuters. State officials said none of the accidents in November 2002 were caused by truck drivers.

Gail Toth, director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, told Land Line Magazine she doesn't foresee the outcome of this latest effort ending up differently than the previous attempts to eliminate uniform speeds.

"It would be absolutely obscene to adopt split speeds. I think most people in government understand it," Toth said.

"Split speeds are dangerous. We have very highly congested highways. We cannot have people driving at two different levels. Especially on highly truck traveled roads. I can't even imagine. It would be like bumper cars."

Toth said concerns about highway safety would be better addressed simply by enforcing current regulations in the state.

"These are knee jerk reactions to situations instead of just saying 'let's get more cops on the road and enforce the law in general.' That would stop a lot of the problem," she said.

Karrow's effort - A1791 - is in the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee.

The New Jersey Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in January 2007. Any bill that doesn't gain approval prior to the end of the session can be brought back for consideration next year.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com

Reminder: Don't forget to set your clocks back Saturday night

It's the last weekend in October, so don't forget - it's time to turn your clocks back one hour on Saturday night.

Daylight-saving time officially ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

This is the last year when DST will end in October. In accordance with part of 2005's Energy Bill, daylight-saving season will run from March until November beginning in 2007.

Lawmakers believe the extra hour of daylight will help reduce the nation's energy consumption.

Florida county to decide on penny tax to aid transit

When voters in Broward County, FL, get to the end of their ballots Nov. 7, they will decide whether to authorize a penny increase in the sales tax for transportation improvements.

Question 2 would increase the sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents on the dollar for the next 30 years, starting in January 2007. The revenue boost would generate an estimated $260 million annually for improved mass transit.

The money would match federal transportation grants for local projects. Preliminary plans are to use the money for the county's bus service and synchronizing traffic signals, The Miami Herald reported. Construction of light rail lines also will be considered.

Proponents have billed the ballot initiative as the only way to avoid total gridlock on roads. Opponents are concerned about how the money would be distributed.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls are open in Florida from 7 a.m. EST to 7 p.m.

Voters in the county who don't want to wait until then to cast their ballots have two options. Residents can take part in early voting which allows voters to cast ballots at any of 20 locations scattered throughout the county seven days a week through Nov. 5. Anyone unable to participate in early voting can request an absentee ballot until Nov. 3.

Visit browardsoe.org for more election information.

Three states study truck rest area needs

If you haul in the northern New Jersey-New York area, you'll be glad to hear that someone is studying the need for new or bigger truck rest areas.

Actually, that "someone" is state agencies in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut - all of which are cooperating on a regional study.

John Hummer of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio that the study will recommend sites for new rest areas and/or the expansion of existing facilities.

Right now, Hummer said, the shoulders of interstates like I-95, I-80 and I-78 turn into makeshift rest stops at night, because there's nowhere else to park a rig.

"If you drive the highways in our region, especially at night, you see trucks pulled over on the shoulders of our roads by the thousands, literally grabbing a little bit of sleep, trying to get off the books so they can get ready for the next day's driving," Hummer said. "It represents, to us and to the industry, a safety hazard and a security issue. We are not providing a safe place for the truckers to go and get some rest."

The joint study on new parking will be presented to the transportation departments and lawmakers in all three states early next year.

- By Reed Black, staff writer
reed_black@landlinemag.com

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