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Proposed U.S. 12 wide-load shipments could delay commuters

Oil companies’ proposed shipments of extra-wide loads on U.S. 12 between Lewiston, Idaho, and the Montana border could delay commuters.

ConocoPhillips wants to use the highway, along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, to move equipment to a refinery in Billings, Mont. Imperial Oil wants to haul big loads of equipment on the highway at night en route to oil sands in Alberta.

Kathryn Tacke, Idaho Department of Labor regional economist based in Lewiston, said the Census Bureau’s Local Employment on the Map program shows that there are about 920 Clearwater County residents who travel along the U.S. 12 corridor to work, and 850 residents of Idaho and Lewis counties who travel on or near the corridor. Other commuters using U.S. 12 include 240 residents of Latah County, 380 of Nez Perce County and 70 of Asotin County, Wash. Lewiston, Idaho, Clarkston, Wash., and Orofino, Idaho, are the largest cities on the corridor. Kamiah and nearby Kooskia also are sizable.

“Certainly there is a lot of commuting that goes back and forth,” Tacke said.

The numbers are based on payroll jobs covered by unemployment insurance, and they do not include self-employed people, she said. The information covers where people live and work, but does not address when they commute.

The Idaho Transportation Department in July counted 3,934 vehicles (both directions) using U.S. 12 at Lenore, east of Lewiston; 2,432 at Kamiah and 963 at Lowell, on the Idaho route’s eastern side.

The Idaho Supreme Court has granted a request to speed the appeal of a judge’s decision to halt four oversized shipments of oil equipment along a scenic, curvy highway across northern Idaho.

The justices scheduled an Oct. 1 hearing in a case involving ConocoPhillips and the Idaho Transportation Department.

Second District Judge John Bradbury revoked trucking permits after finding the state failed to consider public safety and convenience in its review of the travel proposal.

In ConcoPhillips’ appeal, the company claimed it stands to lose up to $9 million in the delay. ITD also filed its appeal Aug. 30, arguing it adequately considered safety along U.S. Highway 12.

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