New Mexico bills cover overweight zones, private scales, county roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, March 16, 2015

Access around ports of entry in New Mexico, private scales and speeds on unmarked county roads are the topics of multiple bills moving through the statehouse.

The Senate voted unanimously to send a bill to the House that would extend the overweight zone at the three ports of entry on the state’s border with Mexico. The ports are in Antelope Wells, Columbus and Santa Teresa.

Sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, SB52 would extend the zone from six miles to 12 miles for loads with a gross weight up to 96,000 pounds.

An exception would forbid the extension of the overweight zone to roads east of Santa Teresa.

It is anticipated the extension would have the largest impact on freight moving between the Santa Teresa port of entry and the Union Pacific intermodal yard, which lies just beyond the existing overweight cargo zone.

Oversize and overweight permits in the state raised $5 million in fiscal year 2014. Revenue from fees for special permits is routed to the state road fund.

The extension of the overweight zones is expected to result in increased truck traffic on the roads servicing the ports of entry, according to a fiscal impact report. The increased traffic is expected to lead to additional long-term maintenance costs.

A change made to the bill while in committee expands the power of local authorities to limit the size and weight of vehicles using roads that pass by educational or medical facilities or on streets that are not designed or constructed for heavy trucks.

Another bill halfway through the statehouse would reorganize the state Department of Public Safety.

The Senate-approved bill would consolidate three DPS divisions into one. Specifically, SB95 would move the Motor Transportation Division, Special Investigations Division, and the Training and Recruiting Bureau under the State Police Division.

Supporters say the change would improve efficiency and aid cost savings. They note that departments of public safety in other states already use the structure.

Also included in the bill is a provision that directly affects truck drivers. The bill specifies that police who believe the weight of a vehicle and load is in violation of rules would be forbidden to require a driver to weigh the vehicle on a private scale.

One more bill to advance from the Senate would change speeds on unmarked county roads. Dubbed the “dirt road bill,” SB125 would lower the maximum speed limit for county roads without signage from 75 mph to 55 mph.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Mexico, click here.

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