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Eye On Boise

House panel rejects megaloads hearing requirement, won’t introduce bill

In this Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 photo, parked between the Clearwater River and U.S. Highway 12 at Kooskia, Idaho, the first megaload of a ConocoPhillips half-drum awaits its third leg of its journey across Idaho to a refinery at Billings, Mont. Snowfall expected at higher elevations ahead has stopped the long caravan of vehicles. (AP Photo/Lewiston Tribune / Steve Hanks)
In this Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 photo, parked between the Clearwater River and U.S. Highway 12 at Kooskia, Idaho, the first megaload of a ConocoPhillips half-drum awaits its third leg of its journey across Idaho to a refinery at Billings, Mont. Snowfall expected at higher elevations ahead has stopped the long caravan of vehicles. (AP Photo/Lewiston Tribune / Steve Hanks)

The House Transportation Committee, voting along party lines, rejected proposed legislation from Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, to require a public hearing before permitting megaloads of more than 500,000 pounds to travel on Idaho roads, refusing even to introduce the bill. Trail said afterward that he was "very disappointed," and had heard "real questions and concerns" about the issue from people both along the Highway 12 corridor in north-central Idaho and all over the state. The Idaho Transportation Department estimated that the hearing requirement could cost the state about $115,000 a year, but Trail said that could be rolled into permit fees for giant, over-legal weight truckloads, so that it wouldn't cost the state anything.

He picked that large weight, he said, because "it just seemed to be a figure that really is a pretty gigantic impact and potential impact on these roads." Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, spoke out in favor of introducing the bill, saying, "I have been rather intimately involved in this process and I definitely see the need for the RS (proposed bill). I think people can't recognize how extraordinary this really is unless you have the opportunity to go stand beside one of these loads. They're up to 230 feet long, over two-thirds of a football field, they're two to three stories high, and their weight is seven times the legal federal load limit." For residents along routes like U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, where hundreds of such loads are proposed to travel en route to the Alberta tar sands project, "It's kind of hard to see what the benefit is and there's a lot of risk," Ringo said.

Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby. said ITD already can hold public hearings if it chooses to. "I do think there's a danger in allowing commerce to be impeded by someone that's unhappy with something that's going along on their road, something they didn't particularly like," Wood declared. "I really don't see the need for the legislation."

She moved to return the bill to Trail, and her motion passed on an 11-3 vote, with only the panel's three Democratic members objecting. Trail said afterward that he remains concerned about the issue, and said three months ago, he requested an analysis from ITD about whether permit fees fully cover the agency's costs for issuing permits for megaloads, and he still has had no response. Trail noted that the first megaload to travel Highway 12, which just arrived in Montana in recent days, had unforeseen problems along the route including traffic delays of nearly an hour; Ringo said it scraped the rock walls along the highway corridor.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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