Oil companies considering alternate megaloads route

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
March 24, 2011

U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 90 might be the roads that some of the ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil megaloads use as they go from Lewiston through Idaho on their way to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.

The oil company submitted a travel plan to the Idaho Transportation Department for the transport of 60 oversized loads from Lewiston, north through the Palouse and east to Montana, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the agency.

ITD has made no decision on the proposal.

Previously, Imperial Oil announced it was splitting 33 modules that have already been barged to the Port of Lewiston into 60 because of delays in getting permits for them to travel on U.S. Highway 12. But the corporation had not identified what route it would use instead.

Reducing the height of the Korean-made modules enables them to use the interstate, something that couldn’t happen previously because the loads were too tall to fit underneath overpasses.

The largest of the 60 oversized loads is 24 feet wide, 15 feet, 10 inches tall and 207 feet long, including the truck and transport trailer. It would weigh 165,347 pounds, not counting the hauling equipment.

No dates have been scheduled for the shipments, which would only be allowed to move between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. and have to pull over at least every 15 minutes to allow traffic to pass, said Adam Rush, a spokesman for ITD in Boise.

Each one would take three days to reach the Montana border. They would go from Lewiston to the Latah/Benewah county line in the first segment of the trip, reach a turnout on Interstate 90 three miles east of Coeur d’Alene in the second portion and arrive at the Idaho/Montana state line in the third part.

Imperial Oil has made no final decision about how it wants get the 60 shipments to Canada, and is still seeking permission from ITD that would enable them to go U.S. 12, said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil in Calgary.

Imperial Oil is also continuing with plans for 114 other modules, also for the processing plant at the Kearl Oil Sands, to take U.S. 12 from Lewiston to the Montana border.

A contested case hearing on that issue is set for April 25. A hearing officer will preside and present a recommendation to ITD on the matter for the agency to use in its decision.

A test shipment in the dimensions and weight of Imperial Oil’s largest proposed megaload for U.S. 12 will leave the Port of Lewiston at 10 p.m. Monday. It will be 24 feet wide, 208 feet long and 30 feet high.

It will take three days to get to Montana, stopping at Kooskia, 23 miles west of Powell, and in Montana.

What happens once it reaches Montana is not clear. Imperial Oil has a permit to park the test module at a weigh station at Lolo Hot Springs, pending the completion of 52 roadside turnouts needed for the load to move through the rest of Montana, Rolheiser said.

The Montana Department of Transportation indicated Wednesday it has no permits on file for the test shipment.

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