Weight limit restrictions on White Mountain highways lifted temporarily

Emergency rulemaking allows loggers to remove Wallow Fire-damaged trees

PHOENIX — In an effort to aid recovery efforts from the Wallow Fire, weight limit restrictions on several state highways in forest areas have been temporarily removed effective immediately, due to immediate action taken by the Governor’s Office and the Arizona Department of Transportation.

By suspending certain commercial motor vehicle weight limits up to 80,000 pounds or length restrictions on select highways over the next 180 days, the forest industry can gain access to areas where immediate timber clearing and thinning are required to reduce the fire hazard to the forests and local communities. This will also limit the economic hardship to timber industry-related businesses.

ADOT recently became aware that prescribed weight limits and length restrictions on certain state highways were presenting problems for counties that contain forest areas that have been subject to wildfires.

“While these weight limits have been in place for a very long time to protect state infrastructure, ADOT understands the urgency from the logging industry,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “The leadership of Governor Brewer brought ADOT together with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State to get an emergency rule approved.”

Prior to the rulemaking, existing state rules placed restrictions on certain commercial motor vehicles on state highways, including state routes 261 (35,000 pounds) and 273 (20,000 pounds) in the White Mountains. By increasing the weight limits, the timber industry can more effectively manage the recovery efforts by carrying heavier loads.

SR 261 is the primary access to an existing 11,000 acre timber clearing and thinning project and a 96,000 acre project is set to begin soon, according to Apache County.

The Wallow Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in Apache County and resulted in millions of dollars of economic loss, countless hours of firefighter service and loss of animal habitat.