Survey finds support for big loads, group says

Coalition of business groups says poll finds more people support permits

By William L. Spence of the Tribune

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
BOISE – Survey results released by a coalition of business groups Tuesday indicate broad support for the U.S. Highway 12 megaload shipments.

Asked whether “oversized trucks that take up both lanes should or should not be allowed to travel on U.S. 12 between midnight and 6 a.m.,” a total of 67 percent of respondents living along the highway corridor supported the shipments, as did 52 percent of statewide respondents.

Once they were given more information about the shipments – including how big the loads were, how long it would take to reach the Montana border, maximum traffic delays and time of travel – support increased to 68 percent locally and 71 percent statewide.

The poll was commissioned by Drive Our Economy, a group of about 40 agriculture, timber, mining and business organizations located in Idaho and Montana.

“These numbers indicate this is a well-thought-out (transportation) plan,” said Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and co-chair of Drive Our Economy.

“The public supports this,” he said. “This is about driving our economy and it’s about jobs for the region.”

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies. It surveyed 400 adults statewide, plus another 150 adults who live in Nez Perce, Lewis, Idaho or Clearwater counties.

The results are unlikely to have any practical effect. After lengthy legal and administrative delays, the Idaho Transportation Department recently issued permits for four oversized loads of refinery equipment for Conoco Phillips. LaBeau said IACI doesn’t plan to submit any legislation this year addressing the issue, because there’s already an effective permitting procedure in place.

Lewiston Sen. Joe Stegner, who attended Tuesday’s announcement, said many of his legislative colleagues are less concerned about the Conoco Phillips loads or the 207 loads proposed by Exxon Mobil than they are about the potential precedent.

“I think what concerns people in the Legislature is the idea that objections (to oversized loads and the permitting process) could stifle commercial activities on public highways in the future,” Stegner said. Given that ITD issues about 66,000 oversized load permits every year, “the idea that this could set a precedent is very troubling.”

Port of Lewiston Manager Dave Doeringsfeld was in Boise for another meeting and attended Tuesday’s announcement.

“The release of this information shows overwhelming support” for the shipments, he said. “Simply put, this is about jobs in north central Idaho – not just for each load, but the potential for long-term job creation and providing value-added services to these loads.”

Conoco Phillips could begin transporting its first load as early as Tuesday.

Spence may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2274.

Group plans rally to protest megaloads on U.S. 12

Friends of the Clearwater, a Moscow-based environmental group, will conduct a rally on Memorial Bridge at Lewiston Saturday to protest megaloads that are scheduled to begin moving along U.S. Highway 12 next week.
The group says the rally is intended to defend the Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa river corridor from the loads. It will start at 1 p.m. and last until 3 p.m. A carpool will leave the Eastside Marketplace in Moscow for Lewiston at noon.
ConocoPhillips could begin moving four oversized loads from the Port of Lewiston to Billings, Mont., as soon as Tuesday. ExxonMobil is proposing to use the same route to transport more than 200 oversized loads to Alberta, Canada.