Megaload traveling megaslowly

Idaho will charge the shipper much less than Oregon for its journey across the Gem State.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comDecember 13, 2013 

  • TRACKING THE MEGALOAD’S PROGRESS

    The load can travel only from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Oregon. According to Omega Morgan, the load can travel at 35 mph on smooth, straight roads. But weather and winding mountain roads are slowing its progress.

    Dec. 2-3: Traveled 40 miles from Port of Umatilla to south of Pendleton.

    Dec. 10-11: Traveled 50 miles to near Ukiah.

    Dec. 11-12: Traveled 14 miles to Dale.

    Dec. 12-13: Traveled 5 miles south of Dale.

Omega Morgan shipping company planned for the 450-ton load of oil refinery equipment to depart Umatilla, Ore., Dec. 1 and arrive near Homedale around Dec. 8, a 315-mile trip. After 12 days on the road, the load has traveled just 110 miles. The first night protesters stalled it; since then, Mother Nature has been the culprit. On Friday morning it parked south of Dale, Ore., after traveling just 5 miles the night before.

PAYING THE TAB

Oregon, Idaho and Montana’s transportation departments are responsible for permitting and monitoring the shipment while it makes its 1,200-mile journey to the Canadian border and then on to its final destination, Alberta’s tar sands oil development. For the Oregon leg of the three-state journey, the shortest one, Omega Morgan is paying the state at least $29,000. In Idaho and Montana, the tab is much lower.

Each state charges for a permit and a fee based on miles traveled and axle weight: Oregon’s 315-mile trip costs about $2,330; Idaho's 475-mile trip will cost $5,634; Montana is still reviewing Omega's proposed 400-mile route and estimates its permit and fees will be about $5,000.

Oregon also is requiring the hauler to reimburse the state for any additional costs, including having an ODOT employee accompany and monitor the load.

“We don’t have all the ODOT support cost info calculated. Our initial cost estimates we shared with the mover for ODOT reimbursement of moving (traffic signals) and other fixtures, and monitoring the load was around $26,500,” said Oregon transportation spokesman Tom Strandberg. That amount could increase.

Idaho and Montana do not require reimbursement of additional costs borne by the agency.

Both Oregon and Montana are requiring Omega Morgan to post a bond to cover potential other costs. Idaho is not.

“No additional funds are due to the Transportation Department, and the posting of a bond is not required,” said ITD spokesman Adam Rush.

Idaho Power Co. will escort the shipment through its service area and, if necessary, relocate power lines. Idaho Power spokesman Kevin Winslow said the hauler, not customers, would pay any associated costs.

MORE LOADS TO COME

Omega Morgan will use one pulling truck and two pushing trucks with a combined 1,500 horsepower.

The megaload — trucks, trailers and cargo — is longer than a football field and weighs almost 1 million pounds. The cargo itself weighs about 330,000 pounds. By car, the 600-mile Oregon-to-Montana trip could be completed in one to two days. But because of the load's height, any routes with overpasses are out; because of its weight, any routes with inadequate bridges are out; and because of its length, any routes with tight turns are out. The 1,200-mile journey includes a 475-mile circuitous route through southwest and central Idaho starting near Homedale and running south of the Snake River to a river crossing near Mountain Home. Then the load will travel north, including a 20-mile stretch along the Salmon River, before traversing the 7,014-foot Lost Trail Pass into Montana.

Under its Oregon permit, the load can travel only at night, must pull over every 20 minutes to let traffic pass and cannot move during bad weather.

Rush said ITD is waiting to issue a permit until the load gets closer to Idaho and travel dates are confirmed. The state has determined the 84 bridges the shipment would cross are sound. Under the tentative Idaho permit, the shipment can only travel at night and cannot delay traffic for more than 15 minutes before it must stop at the nearest pullout to let traffic pass.

Omega Morgan plans to move two more comparable-sized loads along the same route this winter, but a schedule hasn’t been determined, spokeswoman Holly Zander said.

In August, the Oregon-based hauler was able to truck a 255-foot-long, 640,000-pound, 21-foot-wide water evaporator along the narrow U.S. 12 route. A second load was blocked by a federal judge.

The latest shipment is 47 percent longer and 41 percent heavier than the August load.

PROTESTS CONTINUE

When Omega Morgan first tried to move the shipment on Dec. 1, protesters thwarted the effort. This week, protesters moved their action from the roadway to the company’s headquarters in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday about 30 protesters walked through the company's gates and into a meeting, where they blocked a projector screen, sang songs and left peacefully.

Hillsboro police spokesman Michael Rouches said no one was cited or arrested.

“They were very peaceful,” Rouches said. “They were saying whatever they needed to say, and they split.”

The protesters from Portland Rising Tide object to Omega Morgan’s support for the tar sands project, which they say will irreversibly damage the environment.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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