Imperial Oil test module covers more than 100 miles

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
April 28, 2011

A more than 100-mile trip of the Imperial Oil test module occurred without incident on U.S. Highway 12.

The supersized shipment left a turnout five miles west of Kamiah just after 10 p.m. Tuesday and reached milepost 169 at 4:03 a.m. Wednesday, traveling 30 more miles than planned, according to a news release from the Idaho Transportation Department.

“The weather was clear and the driving conditions were dry,” according to the news release. “The transport encountered no problems and the traffic control plan worked as designed.”

Shortly after the trip began, the contingency to get a private vehicle around the megaload for an emergency was tested, said Capt. Lonnie Richardson of the Idaho State Police.

A man claimed his dog was dying and the load was moved to the side of the road to allow him to pass expediently, Richardson said. “We understand pets are like children.”

Delays for motorists were limited to no more than 91/2 minutes, compared with the 15 minutes ITD allows for the three-story-tall shipment that takes up two lanes of traffic, said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, in Calgary. “Our traffic control people did an exceptional job.”

The extra-big transport is expected to hit the road again at midnight tonight and finish its trip 71/2 miles inside the Montana border, where it will stop at a private parking lot at Lolo Hot Springs. Imperial Oil had been poised for it to leave at midnight Wednesday, but the schedule changed due to a 90 percent chance of snow on Lolo Pass, where the load is parked now at a chain-up area.

ITD is requiring Imperial Oil, which is owned mostly by ExxonMobil, to send the test module on U.S. 12 to see if the curvy road can accommodate such huge shipments. The 490,000-pound megaload is almost 250 feet long, including a push truck and pull truck.

It is the same weight and dimensions as the largest of more than 100 loads Imperial Oil wants to send on U.S. 12. The others would be carrying Korean-made components of a processing plant being constructed in the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

They would be barged to the Port of Lewiston, where they would be unloaded for the road portion of their journey. ITD has not given permission for any of the other loads, partly depending the outcome of a contested case hearing in Boise.

Williams may be contacted at
[email protected] or (208) 848-2261.