Monday seen as earliest for megaload test run

Predicted snow on Lolo Pass, no permit in Montana keep big load in Lewiston

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
April 7, 2011
Monday is the earliest an Imperial Oil test module will leave Lewiston.

The oil company has delayed the megaload’s journey on U.S. Highway 12 because snow is predicted on Lolo Pass in upcoming days, said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, which is owned mostly by ExxonMobil. “Obviously weather is a concern for us. Safety is our top priority.”

Additionally, Rolheiser’s employer has yet to secure a permit for the test module to enter Montana, where it’s expected to go 71/2 miles before stopping at a private parking lot at Lolo Hot Springs for an undetermined length of time.

Imperial Oil will have to build turnouts in other parts of that state before it can meet rules about how frequently the rig would have to pull over to allow cars to pass.

Imperial Oil didn’t apply for the test module permit from the Montana Department of Transportation until last week, although a transportation plan had been on file with the agency for longer, Rolheiser said.

The new proposed departure time at 10 p.m. Monday is just hours after attorneys representing Imperial Oil, the Idaho Transportation Department in Boise and megaload opponents will have a planning meeting for a contested case hearing.

ITD has scheduled the contested case hearing for April 25. A hearing officer will listen to testimony, then create a recommendation for ITD on Imperial Oil’s plan to send more than 100 extra-big shipments on U.S. 12.

The test module has the same weight and dimensions as the largest of the more than 100 supersized hauls Imperial Oil wants to send on the scenic road. It weighs about 490,000 pounds counting its transport equipment. It is 24 feet wide, 30 feet tall and 208 feet long.

Imperial Oil hopes the test module proves U.S. 12 is a feasible route for oversized cargo bound for a Kearl Oil Sands processing plant in Alberta, Canada.

The test module’s trip to just inside Montana border will be divided into three segments all between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. It will be accompanied by Idaho State Police at the expense of Imperial Oil and be required to pull over every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass.

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