By Tanya Mitchell
SEARSPORT (Sep 7): Thursday morning’s aborted tractor-trailer transport of two 60-ton windmill sections from Mack Point to Mars Hill caused a three-hour traffic backup on Route 1.
The trucks were scheduled to haul the first shipment of 56 central portions of windmills that arrived via ship at Sprague Energy, the terminal operator at Mack Point. The trucks were on the Trundy Road when the lead truck became stuck in a jackknifed position while attempting to turn onto Route 1.
Searsport Police Chief Mark Pooler said the transport began at 9:05 a.m. and by 11 a.m., traffic in one direction had backed up to the Searsport-Belfast line. Traffic remained jammed on the northbound side of Route 1 until after noon, Pooler said.
Before the transport operation got under way, Pooler said it took 30 minutes for law enforcement officials, including Pooler and Maine State Police Troopers Jonah O’Roak and Donald Webber, as well as truck drivers, to assess the move.
“When we realized that [the truck] was not going to clear the intersection, it took us at least an hour to put together a detour route,” said Pooler.
Last March, Sprague received a shipment of windmill blades headed for the wind energy project in Mars Hill. That transport, said Pooler, went much smoother than Thursday’s attempt.
The biggest difficulty that law enforcement officers faced, said Pooler, was planning an effective detour route for backlogged traffic. Drivers were eventually re-routed onto the Harris Road to the Green Valley Road, then to the George Road. Drivers also used the Dickey Hill Road, the Black Road North, the Savery Road and the Mt. Ephraim Road before turning back onto Route 1. At that point, Pooler called for mutual aid from the Stockton Springs Fire Department to assist with traffic control.
Pooler said he was concerned that without detailed instructions along the detour route, drivers unfamiliar with the area would become lost.
“It was a law enforcement decision not to have traffic traveling through there [around the tractor-trailer trucks on Route 1],” said Pooler. “That is because there were people milling around near Hamilton Marine getting the trailer unstuck, and at that time the trailer was also tipped partway, sideways.”
Pooler said Sprague Energy Terminal Manager Duane Seekins dispatched two loaders and operators to the scene which were used to steady the hulking load.
“They were eventually able to get the truck and the trailer lined up enough so it could back down the hill,” said Pooler. At one point, he said, the leaning load caused the trailer to dig into the pavement.
While the lead truck was not equipped to handle a load of that size, Pooler said the second truck (which never did hit the road) had turning wheels on the back that would handle tighter turns.
The trucks, said Pooler, are parked on Trundy Road, and the transport of the windmill parts has been delayed until Saturday. Pooler said a second truck with proper turning equipment is expected to replace the original lead truck.
Pooler said he believes the Maine Department of Transportation is re-evaluating the entire route for future transports of the windmill sections.
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