Some of the controversial, oversized loads of oil refinery equipment headed to Canada may be moved through Kootenai and Shoshone counties in the near future.
The Idaho Transportation Department began Monday reviewing a proposal from Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to reduce the size of 33 megaloads at the Port of Lewiston so they can be shipped up U.S. Highway 95 to Interstate 90, then east through Montana.
The loads – up to 66 of them – would likely go through Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and the Silver Valley. The shipments would take three nights to move and would travel between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. Traffic delays would be limited to 15 minutes, an ITD news release said. Traffic would be guided around the loads by pilot cars.
The shipment would move from Lewiston to the Latah/Benewah county line on the first night. Next, it would travel to three miles east of Coeur d’Alene, stopping at milepost 18.3 in an I-90 pullout. The final night, the load would move into Montana.
The largest shipment proposed would be 24 feet wide, 15 feet 10 inches tall and 207 feet long, the release said. The heaviest load proposed would weigh 165,347 pounds, not including the truck and trailer. A crew of around 100 is working to cut the loads in half, said Mollie McCarty, ITD’s governmental affairs manager.
McCarty said cutting the loads in half costs about $500,000 apiece. Completing that work would cost ExxonMobil up to $16.5 million.
ITD District 1 Engineer Damon Allen said his staff began reviewing the proposal Monday, working with engineers in District 2 in Lewiston. He said the engineers likely will turn in their comments by the end of the week.
Allen said the obvious challenge in Kootenai County is moving the loads through downtown Coeur d’Alene on Highway 95.
“That’s our bottleneck spot,” Allen said. “That will require the most intense looking into, as far as, logistically, how would you handle that. Other than that, we’re pretty used to having loads about this size. The loads are really not much larger than what we usually accommodate. They’re a little bit longer.”
Allen said the half-sized megaloads will become similar in size to a doublewide modular home.
“It’s somewhat routine, I’d say,” Allen said. “This would err more on the side of routine, as compared to the megaloads on (Highway) 12, those are double-routine. Those are double the size of our largest routine load.”
The ITD does not know when it will complete the analysis of the plan, the news release said. The travel plan must be approved by the department before a permit could be issued.
A full-size test shipment – much like the highly contested ConocoPhillips megaloads – still is slated to start up Highway 12 to assess whether ExxonMobil megaloads can safely make the same journey, possibly more than a hundred times in the future.
The test shipment – which is 24 feet wide, 208 feet long, 30 feet high, and weighs 508,000 pounds – is scheduled to leave the Port of Lewiston Monday night and is the only load ITD has approved for travel. The oil company would like this to be the first of 114 such shipments destined for the Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta.
ITD spokesman Adam Rush said the test shipment will be used to decide whether movement along the curvy highway is manageable and if any problems arise that need to be addressed. The trip is expected to take three days.
Meanwhile, two ConocoPhillips megaloads destined for a Billings refinery may not make it there until April, according to a report from the Missoulian. The second load left Lewiston on Feb. 17.