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State study group releases report on farm equipment usage on state roads

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) - Farmers and local and state highway officials have been putting together a list of recommendations on how to handle farm equipment on public roads.

The Implements of Husbandry Study Group is looking at how to balance the needs of farmers to move heavy equipment across fields and along public roads, and the needs of state, local and county highway departments in keeping those roads safe for other people.

In all, over 1,200 people attended the town hall meetings and over 150 others made comments on the Study Group’s preliminary recommendations. State director of highway maintenance David Vieth says they got plenty of input on the project. "Most of the people that showed up were farmers. But we also had a fair number of people who are town officials, and some overlap on people who are farmers AND town officials. So you start to get that conversation. We have to figure out a way to support this really important industry in the state of Wisconsin."

Vieth says the program is all about communication. "The real key is to increase the amount of communication between farmers and what their needs are, and the maintaining authorities so those town boards and county highway departments can make good decisions on how to accommodate that weight." The primary issue is that many of Wisconsin's county highways and roads simply aren't up to the task of long term use by heavy farm equipment, much less so in the spring when the thaw makes roads more vulnerable.

The recommendations the Study Group has put together are heading to the legislature. They include having all farm equipment straddle the center line when possible on roads, modifying the weight limit to allow 15 percent more weight from farm equipment on roads, and working on permitting or getting permission from local boards and municipalities to use those roads.

The report is available online for review at http://dot.wi.gov/business/ag/docs/addendumreport.pdf.

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