Second megaload nearing Kamiah

Idaho Transportation Department reports no major problems with second ConocoPhillips load; ExxonMobil plans to send test module on U.S. Highway 12 on Tuesday

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The second ConocoPhillips megaload should be near Kamiah by now.

The half-drum bound for an oil refinery in Billings, Mont., left the Port of Lewiston just after 10 p.m. Thursday. It arrived outside Orofino at 4 a.m. Friday after scraping two light poles, but without causing any traffic delays that exceeded 15 minutes, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.

The haulers were set to resume travel at 10 p.m. Friday and go 22 miles on U.S. Highway 12. That section of the trip proved to be the most problematic for the first megaload.

The transport trailer scraped a rock outcropping without doing structural damage and, in one instance, delayed traffic by 59 minutes, 44 minutes more than is allowed under an ITD permit.

This time, that section of the trip to Montana is being handled differently. The distance for the second night of travel has been shortened and manual steering will be used to enable the oversized shipment to better maneuver sharp curves.

Seven trucking companies have rearranged their shipping schedules to avoid the load, and crews moving the ConocoPhillips shipment will wait at milepost 55 until 2:30 a.m. today to proceed, when traffic is lightest.

Before ConocoPhillips’ second supersized shipment reaches Montana, another megaload will be on U.S. Highway 12, weather permitting.

ITD has scheduled a test module of ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil to leave at 10 p.m. Tuesday. At that point, the ConocoPhillips megaload would be at milepost 136, assuming the weather cooperates. Only two nights of travel would remain to cover 38 miles to the Montana border. “Given the distance between the two shipments, ITD anticipates few vehicles would be delayed more than once.”

ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil is sending the test module to be sure more than 100 over-legal loads of modules for a processing plant in the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, can negotiate the curves of U.S. 12.

As of now, ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil hasn’t requested permission from Montana to conduct a similar test, said Jim Lynch, director of the Montana Department of Transportation.

The test module can be disassembled, Lynch said. The Montana DOT recently gave ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil permission to construct 52 turnouts for its megaloads to meet state requirements about allowing traffic to pass.

Whether anything other than ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil’s test module will be allowed to travel on U.S. 12 in Idaho hasn’t been decided. Opponents will have an opportunity to present sworn testimony before a hearings officer who will make a recommendation to ITD.