BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department is inviting the public to a meeting Thursday in Coeur d’Alene to discuss on-ramp widening and brief, temporary closures of I-90 at Sherman Avenue that are planned to allow three megaloads of oil field equipment bound for Canada to pass through.
The three giant loads – which each will measure 472 feet long, 27 feet wide, about 16 feet tall and weigh 1.6 million pounds – could travel within the next month, said ITD spokesman Mel Coulter. “The public meeting is designed to explain it to the public and get some feedback,” he said. “It’s not imminent.”
The megaloads, being hauled by Mammoet USA South, Inc., would arrive at I-90 from the Lewiston area via U.S. Highway 95, exit I-90 at the Sherman Avenue interchange, travel 5.5 miles along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive, pass under the I-90 overpass west of Higgens Point, and re-enter I-90 at a temporary on-ramp that ITD said is “mostly completed” on the north side of I-90.
“The on-ramp, which is on public right of way, will have widening work done to allow the shipments to use it,” ITD said in a news release.
Coulter said the freeway likely would close for only about 10 minutes at a time. “They’re going to have to remove some of the barriers,” he said. “As you can tell from the dimensions, it’s a fairly large load. It’ll require moving some of the center barriers, and it’ll travel a short distance and then move back over to the correct lane. … We’re looking at possibly closing the interstate at that location for about 10 minutes while they make that transition from one lane to another,” for each of the three loads.
Hauls of giant equipment through the Inland Northwest, including Idaho, headed to the Canadian oil sands have drawn protests from local and tribal interests concerned about the impact of the big loads on roads, bridges and the environment, and from environmentalists who oppose the development of the Canadian oil sands. Currently, the first of three loads planned by hauler Omega Morgan for a division of General Electric is slowly traveling across Oregon toward southern Idaho; it’s been delayed both by winter weather and by protests.
That hauler originally wanted to bring its giant loads, which consist of water purification equipment, across scenic, winding riverfront U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, but after the first one went through, was halted by a lawsuit from the Nez Perce Tribe.
Coulter said ITD has not yet issued any permits for the latest megaloads, and is still awaiting some detailed plans.
“An alternate route around Veterans Memorial Bridge for the shipments also is being considered,” the ITD news release said.
Thursday’s meeting will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at the ITD District 1 office, 600 West Prairie Ave., Coeur d’Alene. Public comments will be accepted.