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MnDOT has recommended increasing truck weights and axles on state highways, citing greater efficiency for the freight industry. MnDOT said there is no evidence that heavier weight spread over more axles would create greater damage to highways or jeopardize safety, although it noted concerns that exceptions to weight limits made enforcement more difficult.
The Teamsters’ Reynoso, who acknowledged concerns that bigger trucks could mean fewer drivers, urged legislators to wait for the federal study before deciding whether to make another exception to weight limits.
Solar perk prevails
Another piece of special-interest legislation that overcame opposition in the final days of the session was a requirement that any solar panels installed in buildings, highways and bridges by MnDOT be manufactured in Minnesota.
The “Made in Minnesota” mandate was pushed by DFL lawmakers from the Iron Range, where one of the two Minnesota manufacturers of solar panels is located. Silicon Energy of Mountain Iron said it needed the mandate to compete with cheaper panels made elsewhere in the United States and in China. Its operators also contributed to DFL political campaigns.
The mandate stalled when the House and Senate split on including it in the transportation policy bill, but it resurfaced in the final days of the session.
Still, there was a hitch: Neither Minnesota firm made the kind of solar panels that the state might want to install in highway signs, MnDOT project specialist Erik Rudeen told legislators.
So legislators added a sentence to the legislation. The mandate wouldn’t apply if “no solar photovoltaic modules are available that meet the ‘Made in Minnesota’ criteria and fulfill the function required by the project.”
The transportation bill passed.
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504