CLARIFICATION: The current megaload shipment across Oregon and Idaho originated in Portland, not in Asia. Other megaload shipments sent across Idaho earlier this year did originate in Asia.
Now that Idaho's Highway 12 seems to have been closed off to megaload traffic, shipments have begun moving in other directions. And that changes the nature of the megaload debate.
Highway 12 was an unusual case. For a U.S. highway, that mountainous riverside stretch is challenging for even drivers of standard passenger cars, and highly challenging for drivers of semis and the like. The idea of an enormous 900,000pound megaload, carrying huge pieces of equipment shipped from Asia and destined for the tar fields of Alberta traveling that road seemed, simply, like madness. As the joke would have it: What could go wrong? Well, plenty.
But now we have new routes for the megaloads, and they bring different kinds of questions.
Permits under review at the Idaho Transportation Department would allow for megaloads to run from Lewiston up Highway 95 to its intersection with I90, on which it would run deep into Montana. Assuming the bridge issue can be finessed (the loads are so large they cannot fit underneath bridges), that might be a better alternative, since that stretch of U.S. 95 is now a better road than it once was for larger vehicles, and interstates are built with the idea of handling large loads.
Somewhere in between that and U.S. 12 is the peculiar shipment now underway, slowly, slowly, from the Port of Unatilla in eastern Oregon, to the Idaho border near Homedale, around Mountain Home, over to Arco, north to Salmon, and over the Lost Trail Pass on U.S. 93 into Montana.
Those of us who have driven these roads know them mostly – the bulk of their miles – as long, flat and straight. The desert countryside on much of the way can be spectacular, but most of the route is easy driving and relatively low risk. In most places drivers may be able to make their way around the megaload, something impractical almost anywhere along Highway 12. There are some exceptions, such as the road leading up to Lost Trail Pass and the stretch north of Mountain Home leading up into the Camas Prairie. These still are easier drives than Highway 12. (more…)