NBC Montana caught up with the latest megaload headed over Lolo pass south of Missoula.
That's the same pass where opponents managed to fight off plans to ship massive loads of oil rig equipment early this year but a new load left Lewiston, Idaho, Monday evening and has already made it to Montana.
The Alberta-bound shipment is carrying water purification equipment. The company hired to ship this equipment from the manufacturer in Newburg, Oregon, to the Canadian Oil Sands is Omega Morgan.
Erik Zander, project manager at Omega Morgan, said the equipment will most likely be used to purify water used in the oil-producing process.
Zander said projects like this are great for local economies. “I’m hiring local utility companies, staying at local hotels and eating at local restaurants,” he said. “The economic impact on a load of this size going through these towns is great for them.”
This load measures 236 feet from end to end, that’s about two-thirds of a football field long. The load is 22 feet high, 20 feet wide and weighs 260 tons, which is actually 100 tons less than the Conoco-Phillips drums once planned for this route.
Duane Williams, administrator for MDT’s Motor Carrier Division, said all oversized loads must be approved and permitted through the state. “For any oversized load that exceeds a dimension of 18 feet wide, 150 feet long or 17 feet high an application must be filled out and submitted to the Montana Department of Transportation,” he said.
“Once the department has approved that application then the carrier can request a permit to actually travel on our highways or wherever the route may be that's in the transportation plan,” said Williams.
The shipment only travels at night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. so it doesn't jam up traffic during the day and the load will never travel on the weekends due to increased resident traffic.
Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Adam Rush said traveling at night is the safest way to go especially when loads take up two lanes of the highway. “Doing this really helps us maintain the safety of the highway for the equipment hauler as well as the other drivers on the highway,” said Rush.
“In Montana we have an administrative rule that a load such as this cannot delay traffic over 10 minutes,” said Williams.
MDT approved the permit for this load last Friday. Project officials say shipments like this put money back into Montana communities.
“We hire all local companies to work on these projects,” said Zander. “It's so funny when we were in Lewiston they were asking us, ‘When are you going to come back? We love it.’”
MDT said the permit for this particular load cost a little over $2,000. Officials said permits can vary anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 dollars. All megaload permit revenue goes back into Montana's highway fund which pays for new roads and repairs.
The megaload will be making its way through Bonner, Lincoln and Choteau before continuing on to Canada.