More than 700 Georgia bridges can't handle heavier trucks allowed by new law, officials say

ATLANTA (AP) — More than 700 bridges across Georgia can't handle the increased weight limits approved earlier this year by lawmakers, officials say.

Deputy Chief Engineer Andrew Heath told the State Transportation Board on Wednesday that the Georgia Department of Transportation and local governments will post signs with weight restrictions on the additional bridges by Sept. 2, reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The tally includes 306 state-owned bridges and 427 local bridges.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law this year that allows a weight limit of 88,000 pounds (40,000 kilograms) for trucks hauling some commodities, including logs and farm products.

The previous limit on state roads was 80,000 pounds, but trucks were allowed a variance of up to 84,000 pounds.

Even before the higher weight limit, the newspaper reported that transportation officials said 1,363 of Georgia’s nearly 15,000 bridges could not safely withstand maximum weights

The heavier trucks can only travel on local roads and state highways, not interstates. They're also supposed to stay out of 13 core counties in metro Atlanta and stay within 150 miles (240 kilometers) of their home base.

The higher weight limits expire on July 1, 2025, part of a compromise that emerged from one of the legislative session's most intense fights. The debate pitted logging, farming and trucking groups against city and county governments and the state Department of Transportation, which fiercely opposed boosting truck weights. Some lawmakers say they want to come up with more money to fund statewide transportation improvements by then.

Groups seeking the increase said they could save money by hauling more freight per trip. Loggers argued the change could make the difference between profit and loss in their low-margin industry.

But opponents warned that heavier trucks will cause more damage to roads and bridges, requiring expensive repairs, and possibly cause more crashes because of increased stopping distance.

Kemp had been allowing heavy trucks that get special permits to haul up to 95,000 pounds (43,000 kilograms), under a supply chain emergency order that he repeatedly renewed. But that order finally expired on March 11, reducing the limit to 84,000 pounds.

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