Four new truck lanes for Interstate 70?

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Imagine four new lanes on Interstate 70 built only for trucks. That scenario could emerge from a feasibility study funded yesterday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A coalition of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio received $3 million to recommend ways to speed freight on the interstate. Missouri received an additional $2 million to study its own truck traffic.

“This is the first step in perhaps having dedicated truck lanes going through a four-state corridor,” said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Andy Dietrick.

The truck lane proposal was one of six chosen in a U.S. Department of Transportation competition to find ways to speed traffic on the interstate system. A proposal to study the long-discussed Illiana Expressway between Interstate 65 in Lake County to Interstate 57 in Illinois was rejected.

The proposal from Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio calls for adding two truck lanes in each direction between Kansas City, Mo., and an area near Bridgeport, Ohio. That stretch passes through Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Richmond.

Lanes might be built to accommodate trucks as heavy as 120,000 pounds, rather than the existing limit of 80,000 pounds, the proposal said.

Freight constitutes 21.5 percent of traffic on the interstate in urban areas and 29 percent in rural stretches, and its share is growing.

Because the truck lanes likely would draw truck traffic from parallel interstates 80 and 40, tolling would be a “reasonable” way to pay for such a project, the proposal says.

The feasibility study will consider the truck-lane concept, determine market demand, develop an agreement among the states and finish an environmental impact study.

Dietrick said he didn’t know when the study will be finished. Dietrick also wouldn’t predict specific recommendations it might contain.

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