Source: Post Register (Idaho Falls)
Author: Laura Zuckerman
Megaload hauler wants permit to cut through state
SALMON - The hauler of a giant load of oil refinery equipment wants a permit issued today to travel an Idaho route that cuts through Arco, Leadore and Salmon on the way to Montana en route to the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, according to state documents. The so-called megaload hauled by Oregon shipper Omega Morgan weighs 901,000 pounds, is 76 feet longer than a football field and stands nearly as tall as a two-story house. Omega Morgan is seeking to cross from Oregon into southwest Idaho as early as next week but needs an official OK from the Idaho Transportation Department before it can transport the massive load across highways and bridges overseen by the state. Asked Thursday whether the state would issue a permit today, the highway agency's Adam Rush said the company had not requested a permit for Thursday. "Staff in district offices are evaluating the proposed move at this time," said Rush, public involvement coordinator. But state documents obtained by the Post Register show the agency was slated to sign off Tuesday on the megaload's travel across bridges and that the permitting process was well underway, with various officials saying they would provide more specific details about law enforcement escorts and other matters as soon as the permit was approved. Rush could not provide details about expected road closures, traffic delays, time of travel and speed of the colossal rig. He did not know when it might begin its 355-mile journey through Idaho and when it would cut through Arco, Leadore and Salmon. Concerns have been expressed in Lemhi County about a load that will take up two lanes of travel and is 300 feet longer than the only bridge allowing motorized travel between the east and west sides of Salmon -- the link between emergency vehicles and equipment and the bulk of the city's residences. And a bridge north of Salmon on U.S. Highway 93 near Carmen is the only developed route tying the north and south ends of the county, prompting local officials to raise questions about traffic and other delays that may threaten public safety. Rush said public hearings and reviews are not part of the permitting process for oversized loads. Lemhi County Commissioner Rick Snyder said Thursday there continued to be gaps in information that made it difficult for local officials to assess impacts or try to mitigate problems. "I don't know what's going to come of it," he said. The shipment is one of three planned through January by Omega Morgan that are slated to travel through Lemhi County and over Lost Trail Pass into Montana's Bitterroot Valley. Company officials declined to say how many outsized rigs are planned for the future.