LEWISTON, Idaho — The Idaho Transportation Department says state law requires the agency to issue permits for huge loads passing through northern Idaho if the loads can be moved safely without damaging roads or bridges.
Spokesman Mel Coulter said the agency can also consider if shippers are adhering to rules preventing traffic jams.
Some residents in the region cite environmental and other concerns about a plan by Exxon Mobil Corp. to transport pieces of refinery and mining equipment along U.S. 12 through the Lochsa River canyon.
The company wants to ship the massive components starting this fall from the Port of Lewiston along the Wild and Scenic Lochsa River canyon, over Lolo Pass and through northwestern Montana before reaching the Kearl Oil Sands fields in northeastern Alberta.
The proposal involves hauling 200 oversized loads of Korean-made modules. The heaviest load would be nearly 580,000 pounds, including the hauling equipment. Lengths would be up to 210 feet.
The shipments are expected to exceed the legal weight limits for the Idaho stretch of the trip. A typical tractor-trailer is about 90 feet long and weighs about 80,000 pounds.
The numbers have some elected officials in northern Idaho worried.
"Idaho doesn't have the teeth in its law requiring process," state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, told the Lewiston Tribune.
Ringo and Rep. Liz Chavez, D-Lewiston, are also concerned about one of the massive loads ending up in the Clearwater or Lochsa rivers.
"What I don't want to have happen is to be told, 'This is really safe,' and then have a BP incident," Chavez said.
Chavez said the truck traffic could play a significant role in the region's future, and some residents say there could be economic advantages.
Officials from the Idaho Transportation Department and Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, plan to attend open houses on Monday and Tuesday in Moscow, Lewiston and Kooskia..
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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