Wear and tear on U.S. 12 is latest megaload debate

All sides allowed to argue cases in written briefs

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune
May 25, 2011
What affect megaloads will have on the asphalt of U.S. Highway 12 was among the issues debated in briefs filed this week that was a rehash of what occurred in a recent
Idaho Transportation Department proceeding.

Oral testimony in a contested case hearing finished May 11. But megaload opponents, Idaho Transportation Department, Imperial Oil, and the oil company’s hired hauler had another chance to argue their views in written documents.

Rebuttal to the briefs is due in a few days and then a hearing officer will issue a recommendation to ITD about whether the agency should allow Imperial Oil to send more than 100 oversized loads from Lewiston to the Montana border on U.S. 12.

The extra-large shipments would take up two lanes of traffic and travel only between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. They are supposed to pull over every 15 minutes to allow cars to pass, and the loads will be accompanied by Idaho State Police troopers.

The loads would be Korean-manufactured modules for a processing plant in Alberta, Canada, that’s being constructed mostly with components made in Canada.

Opponents contend the evidence presented at the hearing proved ITD’s choice to back the megaloads is “deeply flawed and erroneous in multiple respects.”

Imperial Oil had a different take. “ITD concluded, based on its experience and discretion and the ample record information before it … that the plan addressed its primary concerns regarding the safety and convenience of the transports and the preservation of U.S. 12.”

One of the main areas where the two sides disagree is how much wear and tear the loads will have on the pavement. They will be among the largest rigs to ever travel on the road.

“ITD did not prepare any written reports or memos addressing the impacts of megaloads on the highway surface before approving the Exxon/Imperial Oil shipments,” according to the opposition’s brief.

But the calculations of ITD found the “loads will cause no more damage to the highway pavement than a regular legal load, such as a logging truck,” according to ITD’s brief.

The overall damage to U.S. 12 based on the opposition’s “inflated figures” indicate if Imperial Oil sends 200 loads on the road they will cause “less than one-fourth of one percent of the total design life of the pavement on Highway 12,” according to ITD’s brief.

The opposition also continues to question if the loads will meet ITD’s 15-minute rule. The recent trip of a shipment, which was the same size as the largest of the transports Imperial Oil proposes, showed the oversized loads can comply, according to ITD. Aside from the night the module hit a support wire for electric utilities and caused a power outage, the delays ranged from 12 minutes to none.

Since the power outage, new precautions have been taken, including raising lines to avoid such problems in the future.

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