BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department has issued the first two permits for modified megaloads of oil field equipment to travel up U.S. Highway 95 to Coeur d’Alene, then turn onto Interstate 90 to Montana.
The two loads could start moving as soon as June 27, destined for the Alberta oil sands in Canada. They’re among 33 giant loads of oil equipment that have been stalled in Lewiston for months, awaiting permits to travel on scenic, twisting U.S. Highway 12 to Montana. Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has been cutting those loads in half, reducing their height but not their length or width, to allow them to travel on the interstate.
“Based on review by the department’s traffic and bridge engineers, we believe the modules can be moved safely (with) minimal impact on traffic and emergency services,” said Alan Frew, Division of Motor Vehicles administrator for the ITD.
Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil in Canada, said, “We’re obviously pleased and encouraged. There are still a number of specific decisions that need to be made about timing.”
He added, “Obviously, we’re awaiting decisions on the contested case hearing in Idaho as well as a preliminary injunction hearing in Montana, both of which we expect between now and the end of June.”
Rolheiser said the original route – taking the big loads across Highway 12 from Lewiston to Montana – “remains our preferred option. However, if we experience extended permitting delays for that route, our intent would be to move modules as we are able to move them on our alternate route, which includes U.S. 95 through Moscow and up to Coeur d’Alene and then I-90.”
He said the company hasn’t applied for permits for the Montana portion of the alternative route; it was awaiting the Idaho permit decision first. The possible injunction now pending in Montana wouldn’t affect interstate routes; I-90 in Montana leads directly to I-15, which goes up to Canada.
The first two reduced-size loads include one weighing 410,300 pounds that’s 23.2 feet wide, 208 feet long and 13.6 feet high, including the truck and trailer. The second shipment is narrower, at 14 feet wide. The first will travel only at night because it will take up two traffic lanes, but the second will be permitted to travel during the day, ITD officials said.
Initially, only one of the giant loads will be allowed on the road at a time, but ITD officials said in a news release, “In the future, more than one load might be allowed on the highway at one time, depending on how well the first shipment proceeds.”
For the extra-wide loads – like the first one – that travel only at night, traffic plans call for three nights of travel to go from the Port of Lewiston to the Montana border on I-90.