Megaload crawling toward Montana

Weather, other issues are causing journey to take longer than planned

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Thursday, February 11, 2011

The first megaload of Conoco-Phillips continues to edge its way closer to Montana on U.S. Highway 12.

It was poised to run from about 5 miles east of Lowell and go about 30 miles east starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Rock fall and snow were reported on portions of the route by the
Idaho Transportation Department on Wednesday afternoon. The National Weather Service indicated a 10 percent chance of snow after 4 a.m.

The journey of the super-large transport went relatively smoothly on a part of the trip that started at 10:01 p.m. on Tuesday and ended at 3:11 a.m. Wednesday, according to an ITD news release.

The convoy with a half drum bound for a Billings, Mont., refinery went from Kooskia to about 5 miles east of Lowell, according to the news release.

“One semi truck was delayed longer than the allowed 15 minutes by the load,” according to ITD. “The load slowed during a brief snow squall as a safety measure. The semi truck followed the load until it reached a turnout. The estimated delay for the truck was an additional 25 minutes.”

The load is supposed to pull over every 15 minutes to allow vehicles to pass. So far the longest delay has been 59 minutes on a curve between Greer and Kamiah.

If the shipment completes the Wednesday-today segment, it will only have one more evening before it reaches the Montana state line.

Originally, going from Lewiston to Montana was supposed to take four nights starting Feb. 1 when it left the Port of Lewiston where its cargo was shipped from a Japanese manufacturer.

But after the first two nights, weather delayed the megaload in Kooskia for almost six days. Then ITD chose to lengthen the remaining two nights into three so the load would have shorter distances to go.

Aside from extended traffic delays and weather, the load has faced at least one other issue.

ITD confirmed Wednesday the haul trailer has a 10- to 15-foot scuff mark from scraping a rock overhang.

“No structural damage was done to the trailer,” ITD spokesman Adam Rush wrote in an e-mail.

Rush didn’t provide details about when or where the megaload got the scuff mark.

A plan to avoid that in the future as well as a repeat of a 59-minute traffic delay will have to be submitted to ITD before the agency will let the second ConocoPhillips shipment depart, Rush said.

The ConocoPhillips megaload on U.S. 12 now is the first of four shipments the company wants to send on the road from Lewiston, all taking up two lanes of traffic and carrying half a drum for a rehabilitation of a Billings, refinery.

The challenges the ConocoPhillips load is encountering haven’t had any impact on the plans of ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil, said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for the oil company.

His employer is monitoring the ConocoPhillips shipment, but it still is seeking permits for 207 modules of a processing plant to move through Idaho and Montana, Rolheiser said.

The Korean-made modules would go from Lewiston on U.S. 12 on their way to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

Like the ConocoPhillips loads, most of them would take up two lanes of traffic, have to pull over at least every 15 minutes and only be allowed to move between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

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