[Vision2020] Pay Now AND Pay Later

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Mon Dec 30 11:05:12 PST 2013

Courtesy of Linwood Laughy, one of the founders of the anti-megaload movement.


Pay Now AND Pay Later
The Taxpayer Cost of Megaloads in Idaho
“On major roads, damage caused by overweight trucks—or by more legally loaded trucks than the road was designed for—can take years to show up…”
“Pounding the Pavement” by Pat Stith, The News and Observer, 2005
Each time the Idaho Transportation Department issues a permit for a megaload to
cross our state, Idaho citizens subsidize some of the most profitable and powerful corporations in the world. Yes, these gargantuan loads present residents, visitors and regular commercial truck drivers with inconvenience and safety risks, forms of subsidy
themselves, but I’m talking real money, tax money, the kind of money the Idaho legislature has trouble finding for schools and prisons and, ironically, highways and bridges. And megaload subsidies are incurred not once or twice but at three different times.
Consider the 900,000+ lb. General Electric load hauled by Omega Morgan that entered
the state December 22nd after 21 days crossing 315 miles of eastern Oregon. According to ITD, this load will travel 488 highway miles in Idaho and cross 84 bridges.
ITD staff in Boise and in 3 different districts examined engineering drawings, studied potential routes, completed bridge analyses, reviewed traffic control plans, likely dealt with calls from concerned citizens and local government officials, and prepared public information announcements. In other words, just to analyze Omega Morgan’s proposal and prepare for issuing a permit, ITD provided hundreds of state employee staff hours at little cost to the shipper.
A second taxpayer subsidy will occur while this megaload is actually traveling
through the state. Based on over 2 years’ close observations of ITD’s handling of Highway 12 megaload transports, ITD can be expected to do anything necessary to facilitate the movement of the Omega Morgan loads across Idaho—from filling potholes the day before a run (including on Sundays) to having ITD crews accompany the loads with extra snowplows and de-icing trucks, and addressing multiple public relations issues. The Idaho State Police and local law enforcement will also rack up hours dealing with what are referred to as “safety issues” during megaload travel, which can include escorting the loads, controlling traffic, and moving sleeping truckers off neededmegaload turnouts.
While a megaload accident’s blocking a highway (like the Emmert International accidentin Oregon in early December) could create serious short-term problems, and thedestruction of a bridge (like the Skagit River bridge in Washington in August) could costthe state and Idaho citizens millions of dollars, the greatest state subsidy for megaloadswill likely happen down the road; i.e., in future years. Claims by megaload supportersthat a megaload does no more damage to the highway than, say, a one-ton pickup arebased on pounds of pressure per inch of tire width. More than 50 years of research bythe Federal Highway Administration contradicts this simplification, research which resulted in limits on total load weight, tire load weights and axle load weights on thenation’s highways for reasons of safety and to protect taxpayer investment. These limitsare, respectively, 105,500 lbs. total load weight, 600 lbs. per inch of tire width, and20,000 lbs. per single axle or 34,000 lbs. per tandem axle.
The Omega-Morgan megaload that entered Idaho on December 22nd weighs over
900,000 lbs. and includes 16 axles bearing 44,750 lbs. each. These axles are traveling
over roadways designed for 20,000 lb. single axle loads. The Washington State Department of Transportation provides a summary of what happens to bridges and roadways when axle weights exceed regulation weights. Among their conclusions:
Current information shows that even slight changes in load limits have
major impacts on pavement and bridge performance. Both the axle and
tire load affect pavements and bridges.
As the total load carried by an axle increases, so does the total load on
the pavement or bridge. An axle carrying 20,000 pounds puts the same
total weight on a bridge or a pavement whether 6-inch wide or 12-inch
wide tires are used. The total load may cause damage or failure, even if
the local point stresses under the tires are not large.
The relationship between axle weight and pavement damage is not linear,
but exponential. For example, a single axle loaded to 40,000 lbs (twice the
legal load) causes 16 times more damage than a single axle legally
loaded to 20,000 lbs.
Copy of the 2006 WSDOT report titled Legal Load Limits, Overweight Loads and
Pavement and Bridges is attached for your convenience, or you can find it at:
This report makes clear that the exponentially greater damage to highways caused by excessive axle weights will require, at a minimum, costly road and bridge repairs earlierthan would otherwise be the case if axle weights were regulated to meet federalstandards. Thus taxpayers will incur greater costs for maintaining transportation infrastructure or suffer the economic and other costs of a neglected highway system.
ITD originally announced the permit fee for the GE/Omega Morgan megaload at $5634, which spokesperson Adam Rush said was based on 355 miles and axle weight. The agency later corrected this number to $7706 for 488 miles and axle weight, and Rushtold the Idaho Statesman,“No additional funds are due to the transportation department,and the posting of a bond is not required.”
Thus Idahoans will not only experience inconvenience and risks to personal safety withmegaloads in Idaho, but we’ll also pay for these megaloads at least three times: prior towhen an overlegal permit is issued, during weeks of the megaload’s actual travel in the form of public agency support, and in the future for accelerated costs of pavement and bridge repair and replacement. This is a best case scenario. Dumping a load into an Idaho river, busting one of those 84 bridges, or delaying the arrival of a stroke or heart attack victim at an emergency room could be much more costly.
For giant corporations and heavy-haul transport companies, Idaho’s state government
is truly a gift that keeps on giving—with taxpayers picking up the tab.
Linwood Laughy
Kooskia, Idaho


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
"This is the 'Mouse that Roared,' 'David and Goliath' and 'Avatar' all rolled into one.  We must remember that the thousands of citizens involved in this effort to protect their personal and family safety, their businesses and their lifestyles are confronting some of the largest international corporations in the world."

- Linwood Laughy

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