Commissioners pave the road for super wide loads

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

On Wednesday the county commissioners approved a road use agreement with Imperial Oil Resource Ventures (ORV) for transporting and parking equipment that exceeds regular size and limits.

The massive trucks will be carrying equipment modules, as they are called, to a Kearl Sands project in northeastern Canada (north of Edmonton).

The loads will originate out of Lewiston, Idaho move through the Panhandle to Missoula and go north along secondary highways.

In Pondera County, the route will be on Hwy. 89, Hwy. 44 and Hwy. 358 and go through Valier.

Transporting the large modules will require that new turnouts are constructed, slightly modify roadways in several locations, conduct some surface repairs and relocate existing utility lines and modify some traffic signals.

According to representatives R.J. McClellen, a senior land agent for ORV and Harry Lillo, a project engineer from Calgary, the routes researched have been determined to have the least interruption to local and tourist traffic.

All the modifications that are proposed to take place are within existing right-of-ways or easements.

No hazardous materials will be shipped along with the modules.

To say that the units are big is an understatement. A typical semi-truck and trailer rig runs about 70 to 130 feet long, is about 8-feet-6- inches wide and 13-feet-6-inches high.

The special units coming through Pondera County and Valier will be 162-feet-four inches long, bumper-to-bumper. Their width is 23-feet-11-inches and the modules are 29- feet-6-inches in height.

It is anticipated that the special trucks will begin shipping in the fall of this year and go through to the fall of 2011. The peak volume will be in 2011 with one load per day and no more than two.

Cost estimates for moving power lines is still to be worked out at this time. Also, by law, a wide load can’t delay traffic for more than 10 minutes. Imperial Oil will have to build turnouts all along the route so the truck(s) will have a place to pull over for traffic to pass.

The local economic impact has yet to be estimated, however, local purchases will include the buying and crushing of gravel, use of survey teams, upgrades to utility line placement, additional turnouts on the secondary highways, the hiring of local flag teams and the crews involved in moving the 200 modules will need to eat, sleep and buy fuel on the local economy.

An Environmental Assessment (EA) is now available for public review at the Valier Public Library, 400 Teton Ave.

You may also go online to see the Environmental Assessment at www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/eis_ea.shtml .

There will be a public hearing and presentation on April 27 beginning with an open house at 6 p.m. and public hearing at 6:30 p.m. in the Cut Bank Civic Center, 800 E. Railroad.

Comments on the project may be made at the open house where there will be a summary of the project history and a description the environmental process.

For further information on the EA, contact Tom Martin, MDT Environmental Services Bureau at (406) 444-7228.