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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

When a delay is not a delay…

A contested-case hearing over plans for hundreds of giant megaloads of oil equipment to travel through a scenic Idaho river canyon will stretch into its third week next week, after a full day of testimony today. Among the issues that have surfaced over the past week is a dispute over just how Idaho is defining its 15-minute limit on traffic delays from the wide loads that would take up both lanes of narrow, twisting U.S. Highway 12.

For that purpose, the Idaho Transportation Department has defined "traffic delay" as only occurring when motorists are stopped, continuously, by flaggers because of the megaloads, rather than also counting time they're traveling slowly behind the loads. Adam Rush, ITD spokesman, said, "In order to have a practical field measurement, the transportation department uses the time that a flagger actually stops a motorist. That can be measured, and is a practical way to measure how long a motorist is stopped."

Megaloads opponents called their own expert, Boise traffic engineer Pat Dobie, who disputed that definition. James L. Pline, a former international president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers who worked as a traffic engineer for ITD for 35 years and then became a consultant, told The Spokesman-Review that the accepted definition of traffic delay is "the additional travel time experienced by a driver, passenger or pedestrian." Pline said that's the definition he used in his 35 years with ITD. "And it's the official definition out of the highway capacity manual, so it's the one that's used all over the country."

Pline, who once lived in Kamiah, said he sees no problem with the megaloads, "as long as they take care of the roadway and don't hold up traffic." You can read my full story here at; the hearing is scheduled to continue on Wednesday, which may be the final day of testimony. That will be followed by briefing; a decision could come in mid-June.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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