Second megaload heads for Montana

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Friday, February 18, 2011

A second megaload left the Port of Lewiston just after 10 p.m. Thursday with a travel plan crafted to avoid the challenges its predecessor encountered as it used U.S. Highway 12 to reach Montana.

This time, the trip is estimated to take seven nights as opposed to the four nights predicted for the first load – which turned into almost two weeks because of weather postponements and other issues.

The second transport hauling half a drum bound for a ConocoPhillips refinery will stop in Orofino; five miles west of Kamiah; Kooskia; seven miles east of Lowell; 26 miles west of Powell; five miles west of the Montana border; and nine miles east of the Montana border.

In Montana, it will join the first oversized load and convoy to Billings, Mont. That journey is expected to last about two weeks. No date has been set for the trip of two more drum halves still at the Port of Lewiston.

The extra time allowed for the load moving Thursday is expected to reduce traffic delays and improve safety, according to a news release issued by the Idaho Transportation Department. “Additional nights will also be allowed to transport the load due to the higher level of traffic than anticipated and because of the effects of cold temperatures and wind chill on the crew.”

Even though ITD, ConocoPhillips and its contracted hauler, Emmert International, planned the move of four drum halves made in Japan for three years, hauling the cargo is proving more difficult than the experts believed.

Traffic is supposed to be allowed to pass every 15 minutes.

But on the second night of travel with the first load between Orofino and Kooskia, delays lasted more than 15 minutes 10 times, including one that stretched to 59 minutes. It was on that leg of the trip the trailer carrying the half-drum scraped against a rock outcropping, according to ITD.

Numerous precautions are being taken to prevent a repeat of those problems, according to ITD. The load will leave Orofino at 10 p.m., then wait at milepost 55 until 2:30 a.m., when traffic is lightest. Seven trucking companies have agreed to rearrange their schedules to avoid encountering the shipment. Manual steering will be used that allows sharper turns.

ITD’s requirements for ConocoPhillips’ second megaload are more stringent for other reasons. ITD had always known the second load would be heavier than the first.

But when the cargo was weighed last week, it was 705,000 pounds, 34,000 pounds heavier than listed by the transport company, according to an ITD news release.

A different configuration of extra wheels is being placed underneath it on three bridges where similar adjustments were required for the first oversized load to better distribute the weight.

The bridges where that will occur are Arrow Bridge, 15 miles east of Lewiston; Maggie Creek bridge, near Kooskia; and Fish Creek Bridge, 23 miles east of Lowell. Additional sets of wheels are now required for a bridge 21/2 miles west of Orofino and Weir Creek Bridge, 20 miles west of Powell.

Exactly how much sending the megaloads on U.S. 12 is costing ConocoPhillips, Emmert and ITD has not been tallied yet, according to an e-mail by ITD.

Emmert paid for loose rock chips to be removed from the road between milepost 151 and 169, where a seal-coat project failed, according to ITD. Emmert is also being charged for any additional winter maintenance that would not normally be performed, according to ITD.

“A two-person maintenance crew driving a snowplow joined the shipment at Kooskia and traveled with it for the next four segments of the trip. … Two additional maintenance workers driving magnesium chloride trucks accompanied the transport for the final five miles into Montana.”

Emmert is not paying for two ITD employees who accompanied the first load to make sure it was following the rules. The decision about if those staffers will be needed on future trips will be made on a case-by-case basis.

ITD didn’t answer a question about how many of the 64,397 over-legal loads that moved in fiscal year 2010 had such monitoring.

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