February 4, 2011 in Idaho

New plan required after megaload causes long delay

Associated Press
 

LEWISTON — The Idaho Transportation Department is requiring ConocoPhillips to submit a new plan before allowing the oil company to send a second giant truckload of refinery equipment after the first caused a 59-minute traffic delay at a sharp curve on U.S. Highway 12.

Agency spokesman Adam Rush said the delay occurred as the load went around a sharp curve between Greer and Kamiah in northern Idaho, and was one of 10 delays that exceeded the maximum time allowed of 15 minutes.

The Lewiston Tribune reported that the load left Orofino just after 10 p.m. Wednesday and arrived at Kooskia by about 5:15 a.m. Thursday on the second leg of the trip from the Port of Lewiston to a refinery in Billings.

The company kept the load in Kooskia Thursday night because of a storm in the area that’s expected to dump between 9 and 20 inches of snow over three days.

Rush said no penalties will be imposed for the delays that went over 15 minutes, but the company must devise a new plan for getting the loads past the most difficult spot. Rush didn’t give a deadline for the new plan, but ConocoPhillips’ second load is scheduled to start moving Monday.

The load is the first of four megaloads that were approved to leave Lewiston in the next three months, each carrying half of a 300-ton coke drum. Locals tried to stop the shipments, worried they could open the gates to turning the designated scenic byway into an industrial corridor.

Linwood Laughy, one of those who battled unsuccessfully to stop the loads, was warned by Idaho state troopers Thursday morning not to disrupt the shipment.

Idaho State Police Capt. Lonnie Richardson said Laughy “attempted to delay the movement of the load” by stopping as traffic was being directed around the load.

Laughy said he was monitoring the shipment and the warning by police was a result of a misunderstanding. He said on three occasions he was confused on where he was being directed around the load, even though he was intent on following instructions.

Richardson said no additional action is planned concerning Laughy.

Richardson said officers have spoken with three or four people who went near the megaload, including one pedestrian.

“There has been other suspicious activity that we have made contact with, but none of them have tried to disrupt the load at all,” Richardson said.

The newspaper reported that at least four vehicles followed the shipment as it moved Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

“We plan on observing these loads as they travel across Idaho,” Laughy said. “As far as I know, American citizens still have the right to use U.S. highways that U.S. taxpayers pay for. We have consistently said we don’t want to do anything illegal and we don’t want to do anything unsafe and we don’t want to do anything that would hamper the progress of the loads.”

The truckloads needed special permits from the state because they are three stories tall, 226 feet long, and take up both lanes of the highway during the journey to the Montana border, originally expected to take four days.

The first shipment followed months of legal challenges over the Idaho Transportation Department’s initial decision to permit the oversized loads. In January, Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness agreed to issue the permits for the 175-mile journey across Idaho.

ExxonMobil wants to use the same northern Idaho route to begin shipping more than 200 oversized loads into Montana, then north to the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. ExxonMobil has already delivered more than a dozen massive modules of refinery machinery to the port in Lewiston. If those shipments are approved by the states, trucks could roll down Highway 12 five nights a week for a year.

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