Sometime within the next week or so, a 450-ton megaload, longer than a football field, is likely to be transported through southern Blaine County on U.S. Highway 20.
The cargo consists of water-purification equipment that was manufactured in Portland, Ore., and is destined for the tar sands oil area of Alberta, Canada.
Although the Idaho Transportation Department on Thursday had not yet—at least by press deadline—approved the shipment through the state, the megaload is already on its way. It was first shipped by barge from Portland up the Columbia River to the Port of Umatilla. Then, it was loaded onto trucks that left Umatilla on Monday night.
ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke said Wednesday that the shipment, now traveling through Oregon, was expected to reach Idaho the evening of Sunday, Dec. 8. However, there have already been delays, first caused by protesters on Sunday and then by bad weather in Oregon on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that the megaload that day was parked south of Pendleton, Ore., waiting for improved weather conditions.
“We’ve approved stuff that’s wider or higher.”
Once the load reaches Idaho, if the shipment is approved by ITD, it will enter the state on U.S. Highway 19 near Homedale west of Boise. The shipment will then travel along state and federal highways south of Interstate 84 until it reaches Hammett.
From Hammett, the load will travel back to the northwest on I-84 until it reaches Mountain Home. Then the load will be shipped on Highway 20 through Elmore, Camas, Blaine and Butte counties. The route turns to the north just east of Arco and the shipment is planned to leave the state and enter Montana just north of Salmon.
The shipment is one of several megaloads bound for the Alberta tar fields. Shipments were earlier made through northern Idaho but were blocked by a federal judge in September who determined environmental aspects of the U.S. Highway 12 Wild and Scenic River corridor had not adequately been assessed.
With the northern route barred, Omega Morgan, an Oregon-based trucking firm hired to ship the load, proposed the route through southern Idaho instead.
In Oregon, which approved the shipping plan, the load is only allowed to be moved at night.
Jerke said Thursday that ITD had not yet determined what hours of the day the megaload would be allowed to move.
Jerke said the load is 376 feet long, including the three trucks moving it, with one truck pulling and the other two pushing. The load is just over 22 feet wide and 18 feet 11 inches high.
Although the total weight, including the trucks, is just over 450 tons, Jerke said the weight is distributed over 16 different axles, so that the weight per axle is about the same as an ordinary semi-truck or 10-wheeler.
The load will cross the aging bridge over the Big Wood River to the west of Timmerman Junction, but Jerke said the ITD Bridge Section has already determined the bridge can support the load because of the weight distribution.
Final approval for the shipment rests with the ITD Department of Motor Vehicles Over-Legal Section.
Jerke said the load is the longest that’s ever moved through ITD District 4, which oversees highways in the Magic and Wood River valleys. The largest before was a 220-feet-long load that went through Twin Falls on a trip to Nevada.
He said the megaload should be able to accommodate any highway turns along the route because each of the 16 axles has its owning steering capability.
The maximum speed the shipment will be allowed to travel is 35 miles per hour.
Jerke said that when the shipment is moving, traffic will be stopped by escort vehicles in both lanes. However, the maximum time that traffic can be stopped is 15 minutes.
Omega Morgan’s Transportation and Traffic Control Plan identifies turnout locations along the route, including Highway 20, where the megaload will be pulled off the highway to allow traffic to pass.
Jerke said, other than the length of the shipment, the load is not that unusual.
“We’ve approved stuff that’s wider or higher,” he said.
Blaine County Commission Chairman Larry Schoen said Thursday that the commissioners have concerns about the shipment and will be sending a letter to ITD.
“The board is going to issue a letter expressing its concern about traveler inconvenience, possible road damage, safety to the public and that the shipment be clean of any hazardous substances,” Schoen said.