Public meetings generate comments on U.S. 12 transport proposal

Three public meetings in north-central Idaho this week drew near capacity crowds as residents and concerned citizens commented on a proposal to move oversized loads on U.S. 12. Imperial Oil and its parent company Exxon-Mobil propose moving 207 loads from the Port of Lewiston to the Kearl oil sands extraction site in Alberta, Canada.

Three meetings – in Moscow and Lewiston, Monday, and in Kooskia, Tuesday – attracted approximately 350 individuals. The largest turnout was at Kooskia City Hall where more than 150 people assembled to comment on the proposal and ask questions of Imperial Oil and ITD representatives. Primary concerns related to potential environmental effects, safety, possible damage to highways and bridges, emergency plans and traffic delays.

Most of the comments reflected strong opposition to the proposal, known as the Kearl Module Transportation Project.

Imperial Oil’s proposal includes about 125 loads that will range between 316,500 and 580,000 pounds and from 170 to 210 feet long, 16 to 24 feet wide and 14 to 30 feet high. Those shipments would require semi trucks in front and back, traveling between 10 and 30 miles per hour from Lewiston to Lolo pass near the Montana border.

The remainder of the loads (about 82) would be 263,300 to 398,000 pounds, 170 to 210 feet long, 20 to 24 feet wide and 18 to 30 feet high.

Imperial Oil has improved nine U.S. 12 turnouts at a cost of approximately $400,000 in anticipation of the shipments. Officials identified more than 50 turnouts, passing lanes and other locations where the shipments could be moved to allow traffic to pass. One of the criteria ITD will consider before issuing an overlegal permit is a commitment by Imperial Oil not to impede traffic for more than 15 minutes.

An overlegal permit also would be contingent on the ability to move loads safely and without damage to the highway and bridges. The loads would require separate permits at maximum fees of about $1,000 each. ITD would retain the authority to cease issuing permits if the transport process fails to meet established criteria.

All of the transports would take place on weeknights, between about 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

The 174-mile corridor from Lewiston to the Montana border would be divided into three segments. Only one load would be allowed on each segment at a time. Escort vehicles and Idaho State Police would accompany all loads. Loads would not be permitted during inclement weather or hazardous conditions. The shipments tentatively would begin in November.

Although all three of the meetings were scheduled to be open houses – with oil company representatives answering questions at 14 informational stations – two of the public events were changed to town hall-style meetings. In Moscow and Kooskia, citizens asked questions directly of Ken Johnson (Imperial Oil) and ITD District 2 Engineer Jim Carpenter, who agreed to serve as moderator.

Public comment will be accepted through July 14. Answers to specific questions will be posted on ITD’s website as soon as they are available from Imperial Oil and ITD. Those answers should be available in early August. Anyone who would like to submit a comment or question may do so through conventional mail to ITD in Boise or sending e-mail to

Published 7-2-2010