Higher truck weights mean added restrictions for 700-plus Georgia bridges

State officials are restricting traffic on hundreds of bridges in response to recent legislation raising the maximum weight of trucks allowed on Georgia highways.

Historically, the maximum weight of trucks in Georgia was 80,000 pounds, though vehicles carrying certain agricultural and forestry products were allowed to weigh up to 84,000 pounds. House Bill 189, approved by legislators and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp this year, temporarily raises the maximum weight to 88,000 for some vehicles and expands the number of products that are eligible for the higher weight.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, 1,363 of the state’s nearly 15,000 bridges could not safely accommodate the old maximum weight. With HB 189 in effect, GDOT has identified an additional 733 bridges that cannot handle the new maximum.

Deputy Chief Engineer Andrew Heath told the State Transportation Board on Wednesday that GDOT and local governments will post signs with weight restrictions for the new bridges no later than Sept. 2.

Proposals to raise maximum truck weights sparked some of the most contentious debates of this year’s legislative session.

Proponents said higher truck weights would allow businesses to ship their goods more efficiently and save money at a time of high inflation. Traffic safety advocates, GDOT and local governments said heavier trucks would mean more traffic fatalities and would cost taxpayers billions of dollars more for road maintenance.

Ultimately, lawmakers approved a compromise. HB 189 increased the maximum truck weight to 88,000 pounds for vehicles carrying certain products. The higher maximum does not apply in 13 metro Atlanta counties. And it’s in effect elsewhere for only two years — giving lawmakers time to hammer out a permanent compromise.

That compromise might involve finding a way to pay for billions of dollars of road improvements needed to accommodate the boom in freight that is expected in Georgia in coming decades.

In the meantime, trucks weighing the maximum will be prohibited from crossing the additional 733 bridges GDOT identified across Georgia: 306 state-owned bridges and 427 local bridges.