Megaloads inch closer to U.S. 95 access way

ITD finishes review of oil-exploration firm’s transport request

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune | June 15, 2011

The Idaho Transportation Department completed its review of a request from ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil, bringing U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90 closer to becoming a megaload corridor.

The only step remaining would be for the oil company to ask for a permit, said Adam Rush, a spokesman for ITD, in an email Tuesday.

“We are in the process of submitting the permit (application),” said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil in Calgary. “There are a number of decisions that have to be made.”

Exact conditions of travel such as how frequently the loads would have to pull over to allow traffic to pass will be specified in the permit, Rush said.

ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil is hoping to send 60 oversized shipments from the Port of Lewiston to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, through the Palouse and northern Idaho.

The route is a second choice for the oil company. The processing plant equipment the transport vehicles would carry has been at the Port of Lewiston since the fall and had been slated to complete the Idaho portion of its trip on U.S. Highway 12.

But ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil regrouped after opponents slowed the process. The oil company has spent months converting what had been 33 loads of equipment into 60 shipments at a cost of more than $500,000 per module. The largest would be 24 feet wide, 207 feet long and 15 feet, 10 inches tall – short enough to pass underneath Interstate overpasses.

The more than 100 loads ExxonMobil wants to send on U.S. Highway 12 to the same destination have similar measurements, only at 30 feet high they’re taller and unable to fit below overpasses.

Whether those oversized shipments get to move on U.S. 12 has not yet been decided. An ITD proceeding where opponents, the oil company, the hired hauler and ITD presented their views wrapped up in May. A recommendation to ITD from the hearing officer is expected any day.

One concern the opponents raised in the proceeding was ExxonMobil didn’t adhere to an ITD requirement of pulling over every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass when it sent a test module on U.S. 12. It had the same dimensions as the largest of the proposed megaloads for that road.

That module collided with an Avista support wire in one instance. All overhead wires on U.S. 12 have since been rechecked to be sure they allow adequate clearance.

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