BOISE – Interstate 90 through Coeur d’Alene could be closed for brief periods to allow megaloads of oil field equipment to pass through on their way to Canada.
The Idaho Transportation Department is inviting the public to a meeting Thursday in Coeur d’Alene to discuss widening an on-ramp and brief, temporary closures of I-90 at Sherman Avenue that would be required to accommodate the three megaloads.
The loads – each measuring 472 feet long, 27 feet wide and about 16 feet tall and weighing 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.”
At 472 feet long, the new loads would be more than twice as long as those proposed to move over scenic Highway 12 in north-central Idaho earlier this year. Those loads were halted by a lawsuit after one truck made the trip.
The proposed I-90 loads would be hauled by Mammoet USA South Inc.; part of their trip would take them along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.
Under the proposal, they would arrive at I-90 from the Lewiston area via U.S. Highway 95, exit I-90 at the Sherman Avenue interchange, travel 5 1/2 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 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’s giant loads consist of water purification equipment.
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.