Lewiston’s mayor says city back megaloads

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
April 21, 2011

Lewiston’s mayor weighed in on megaloads Wednesday, announcing the city supports them at a meeting of the Idaho Transportation Board.

Other types of vehicles pose bigger environmental hazards on U.S. Highway 12, including those that haul fuel, Kevin Poole said.

He pointed to 250 new jobs at the Port of Lewiston “that never existed until now” as a benefit. Most of the temporary positions are filled by people from out of town, who are dividing 33 Imperial Oil modules into 60 for shipment to a Kearl Oil Sands processing plant in Alberta, Canada.

Imperial Oil originally wanted to send the 33 modules down U.S. 12, but changed the plan after delays in getting permits. It’s now shortening the modules so they can make it underneath interstate overpasses and take U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90.

The oil company still wants to send more than 100 modules on U.S. 12. But it doesn’t have the go-ahead from ITD for any shipments beyond a test module now making its way to Montana.

Aside from benefits to city businesses that provide services to megaload crews, the city of Lewiston is compensated for sending an ambulance crew with the first five oversized shipments.

Two of those were drum halves for a ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, Mont., that have been delivered. The third is the test module for Imperial Oil. The other two will be identical to the first two and start their journey to Billings as early as next week.

Whether the city of Lewiston would provide ambulance service to more loads hasn’t been decided, said Gordy Gregg, Lewiston’s fire chief, contacted after the ITD board meeting. “On a short-term basis, we can handle it,” Gregg said. “On a long-term basis there needs to be some sort of financial incentive.”

In another matter, the board heard a report that the state has allocated two more deputy attorney generals to serve ITD. The increase brings the total to five, compared with six before the agency made budget cuts, said Darrell Manning, chairman of the board.

The litigation ITD has faced involving megaloads was one of the reasons for boosting legal staffing, Manning said.

The move allows ITD to have attorneys at its disposal who specialize in transportation issues such as permitting, Manning said. “Sometimes cutting doesn’t save any money.”

In other business, the board:

l Heard a presentation from Jim Carpenter, an engineer with ITD in Lewiston, about how his office has shifted to a performance bidding process for seal-coat projects that requires contractors to guarantee their work. The change occurred after an 18-mile section of seal-coat failed on U.S. 12, something that had not happened previously in north central Idaho, Carpenter said. ITD is still sorting through how to resolve the problem and experienced a similar issue in at least one other area of the state, Carpenter said.

l Listened to a report ITD provided about $30,000 in materials to smooth a rail crossing at Highway 7 in Orofino. The timing of the repair will depend on the rail company, the Bountiful Grain & Craig Mountain Railroad, which is doing the work, Carpenter said.

l Approved an $11.8 million project to rebuild the section of U.S. Highway 95 that goes through the town of Ponderay.

l Awarded the Craigmont Lions Club an honor recognizing it as the “Adopt-a-Highway” group of the year for north central Idaho.

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