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Deer Lodge businesses profit from megaloads

Silver State Post of Deer Lodge, Montana

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It was just a year ago when the Powell County Commissioners voted in favor of the Exxon/Imperial Oil megaloads traveling through the County-then predicted to travel on Highway 200. The year brought forth numerous lawsuits, primarily in protest of travel over Highway 12 over the Lochsa and Lolo Pass.

The controversy was originated as a result of the application for permitting of movement of gigantic modules to the tar oil sand fields in Alberta.

The oil companies, foreseeing further litigation, applied for Montana Department of Transportation oversize permits and were granted same to travel I-90 to Butte, then north on I-15 to the Canadian Border.

The re-routing was possible only by cutting the original loads in half in order to facilitate interstate highway transport.

The result of the new routes has been increased motel, restaurant and gas receipts in Deer Lodge.

"We have had six rooms per night since October," Western Big Sky motel manager Amy Graveley Tate said. "The pilot car folks are very nice. We are not the only place they stay in town. There are other motels getting business as well."

Todd Fickler, owner of the I-90 Conoco on the north side of town, said although they do not charge a fee for any trucker to park, there has been gas sales and other income from the traffic.

"We know they buy gas at other purveyors in Deer Lodge, in addition to us," he said.

Pius Rolheiser, Imperial Oil Media relations contact in Calgary said, "There were 33 original modules at the Port of Lewiston which we had to cut down to accommodate Interstate travel-each module reduction cost was between $500,000 and a million dollars."

He went on to say that the South Korean manufacturer was able to re-design the remaining Phase I modules so they were shipped in two or more parts prior to arrival at the Port of Pasco, Wash., or the Port of Lewiston.

"I anticipate that the first phase en route to the Alberta fields will be complete in the first half of 2012-barring any weather or transportation delays," he said.

Imperial Exxon voted to move to Phase II of the tar sands development in late December, according to Rolheiser.

"It is not yet known what the transportation requirements will be in the U.S. for this expansion of the development."

Additional big load traffic has increased in the I-90 east-west corridor as a result of the development of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and eastern Montana.

Original Publication Date: January 18, 2012



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