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Development & Transportation
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Casey Opposes Legislation To Allow Bigger Trucks On Highways

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said this week he wants to prevent a provision in the federal transportation spending bill that would allow 85-foot tractor-trailers on Pennsylvania roads because he believes the bigger rigs will exacerbate state infrastructure problems.

These “Twin 33” trucks are 17 feet longer than the current 68-foot models.

“Very, very tough winters, lots of road miles to maintain, 5,000 structurally deficient bridges -- all kinds of challenges with maintenance," he said. "With all of those challenges, we don’t need another problem, another safety concern that would arise in the aftermath of this policy change.”

According to state transportation data reported by Casey, there have been 20,893 accidents involving large trucks in Pennsylvania since 2011. Allegheny County has seen 1,413 large trucks involved in fatal or non-fatal crashes since then.

“I believe that bigger trucks on the road means the potential for more accidents as well as increased dangers for children and for families," Casey said.

Under current law, individual states can decide whether to allow Twin 33s. If the provision is approved, no state will be able to stop their movement on highways across the nation, even if state authorities provide evidence of safety problems due to the larger vehicles.

Currently, 11 states allow the use of these larger vehicles. Historically, increasing the lengths of trucks have led to fewer trucks on highways, according to Casey's office, but they argue traffic also boons.

The Coalition for Efficient & Responsible Trucking estimated Thursday that the proposal would eliminate an estimated 6.6 million truck trips per year, resulting in 912 fewer highway accidents per year. Officials said in a statement that the longer 33-foot wheelbases make them more stable, and that Twins have logged more than 1.3 million accident-free miles over the past five years on the Florida Turnpike.

Casey acknowledged other states could benefit from the proposal. He said Pennsylvania, lacking long, straight highways, would not be one of them.