A massive piece of refinery equipment bound for Great Falls arrived just west of Kalispell on Thursday morning and will cross the Flathead Valley tonight.
The so-called megaload began its journey in Lewiston, Idaho more than a week ago and since then has traveled through Troy and Libby. The refinery equipment is 21 feet wide and nearly 17 feet tall. The megaload’s maximum gross weight can reach 1.08 million pounds. Its maximum permitted length is 400 feet, 5 inches.
The load will travel across the valley tonight, departing the weigh station at Smith Valley at about 11 p.m. In Kalispell, the megaload will turn north on Meridian Road and join up with U.S. Highway 93 near Hutton Ranch, before going north toward Whitefish. From there it will turn east on Montana Highway 40 and travel through Columbia Falls. Just east of Columbia Falls, it will turn south on Montana Highway 206 and travel to Montana Highway 35. From there it will travel through Creston and turn east on Montana Highway 83 just north of Bigfork. The load will then be parked along the Swan Highway for the day before continuing its trip to Great Falls.
The megaload will travel exclusively at night in order to avoid traffic, but motorist can expect delays of up to 10 minutes. Montana Department of Transportation officials encourage travelers to seek out other routes if they believe the megaload will delay them. The equipment is being moved by Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. and Montana West Holding Company is providing traffic control.
In recent years, megaloads have sparked controversy in the Pacific Northwest due to their massive weight and size and their impacts on road infrastructure and environmental corridors. Last week, protestors met the eastbound megaload in Moscow and Sandpoint.
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