COEUR d'ALENE - A proposal to build a temporary Interstate 90 on-ramp to allow three megaloads of oil field equipment bound for Canada to pass through Coeur d'Alene is drawing concerns.
The Idaho Transportation Department will accept public comment on the plan of Mammoet USA South, Inc., on Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at its office at 600 W. Prairie Ave.
ITD representatives will present information on the on-ramp, traffic control plans for the shipments and "brief" closures of the freeway at the on-ramp location near Higgens Point east of Coeur d'Alene, according to an ITD news release.
The shipments, which would come from Lewiston along U.S. 95, could pass through as early as January and would likely close I-90 for about 10 minutes for each shipment, ITD officials said.
"The on-ramp, which is on public right-of-way, will have widening work done to allow the shipments to use it," the news release states.
Mammoet USA South proposes to move three shipments east on the interstate. Each load is 472 feet long, 27 feet wide, 16 feet tall and 1.6 million pounds.
A route being considered bypasses Veterans Memorial Bridge along the freeway east of Coeur d'Alene. Shipments would exit I-90 at the Sherman Avenue interchange, travel 5.5 miles along east Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, pass under the freeway overpass west of Higgens Point and re-enter I-90 at the temporary on-ramp.
Adrienne Cronebaugh, executive director of the Coeur d'Alene-based Kootenai Environmental Alliance, said there are concerns about the proposal. She said she was "amazed" at the size of the loads.
"I am concerned about the potential damages to the Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive road bed a 1.6 million-pound load might leave behind for the taxpayers to restore," Cronebaugh said. "These shipments are not super tall, but they are very long and very heavy. These are one of the biggest shipments I've seen.
"A larger concern is with the temporary on-ramp that will be constructed from the Higgens Point parking lot. The only thing that will make that on-ramp temporary are moveable concrete barriers. We don't want to see Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive become the thoroughfare for megaload shipments for years to come."
Cronebaugh believes Mammoet USA South should build its equipment where it's needed rather than transport it in megaloads through Idaho. She said the proposal has created a buzz of interest, so she expects others to join KEA in commenting during Thursday's meeting. She's also seeking input from homeowners along east Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive who would be affected.
"The shipments are supposed to be at night, but other shipments have taken more time than what was originally planned," she said. "Since these could be moved during the winter, I'd expect similar issues around here. It could cause unintended problems for residents."
ITD hasn't issued a permit for the megaloads and is awaiting more-detailed plans for the transport project through Coeur d'Alene.
The temporary on-ramp would involve removing concrete center barriers on the freeway. The on-ramp would travel a short distance in the westbound lanes before transitioning into the eastbound lanes.
Megaloads heading from the Northwest to the Canadian oil sands have drawn protests and lawsuits in recent years. In some cases, protesters, including those in Coeur d'Alene and east of Lewiston, have been arrested.
Idaho Transportation Department officials couldn't be reached for further comment on Tuesday.