Road commission concerned about Senate Bill 396
LAKE COUNTY — With a Senate bill moving through the legislative process which would create less regulations for logging vehicles on roadways, the Lake County Road Commission is concerned about the havoc the heavy vehicles could unleash on county roads during spring thaws.
Lake County Road Commission Manager Steve Leonard has been sending letters to township and county officials as a call of action against the bill, which was introduced in 2017 by Sen.Tom Casperson, a former logger.
The bill would make logging operations exempt from frost law weight restrictions, which would have potential to severely damage Lake County roads, Leonard said.
“If this passes, this will make the logging industry exempt with weight restrictions year-round, and they could move forest equipment and trailers without permits,” he said, adding this is especially problematic during the spring thaw. “When the snow melts is the most critical time to pavement.”
A bill analysis reports passage of the bill would have an “indefinite impact” on counties with gravel roads used by the forestry industry. Rural communities with an active forest industry, such as Lake County, could see “accelerated wear” on roads, which could cost from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on severity.
Another issue Leonard has with the bill — if the logging vehicles create damage on the roads, the county will have to pay the bill for repairs.
“If the loggers damage any structure, bridges and culverts, the county is responsible for repairs,” he said. “Hopefully we can get as many people as we can against the bill to reach out to legislators. This will be detrimental to our road system and the safety of the public if approved. The state gave extra money to fund road repairs this past year — that money will be wasted on damage done by heavy trucks during seasonal weight restrictions. We would have to clean up after them, and that is not fair to us, or taxpayers.”
Leonard said the road commission has and always will continue to work with loggers during the spring thaw, allowing them to move on roads in the early morning hours when the road is still frozen and at less risk of being damaged.
“We will continue to work with them to get their product out, while protecting the structural integrity of our roads. The road commission’s top priority is the safety of the motoring public and protecting our roads from further damage,” stated the letter sent to local government officials encouraging them to oppose the bill.
So far, the Lake County Board of Commissioners and other townships such as Sauble, Peacock, Lake and Pleasant Plains have passed resolutions opposing the bill.
“This legislation is opposed by road commissions throughout the area, who are talking with state officials. I encourage people to check with their local road commissions and reach out to their state representatives,” Leonard added.