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Traffic chaos coming; blame it on the wind  

Dutch transportation giant Mammoet – famed for raising a sunken Russian submarine from the bottom of the Barents Sea – is planning one of the largest convoys of oversized truck loads through Windsor streets in city history.

Two years of meticulous planning, including computer simulations, will be put to the test after the ocean freighter BBC Delaware arrives from Denmark at Morterm Windsor docks next Wednesday.

It’s the first of six freighters that will unload the massive sections of the 44 wind turbines to be erected at Kruger Energy’s $200 million wind farm in the Port Alma area of Chatham-Kent.

Each ship will take Morterm three days to unload, says vice-president Terry Berthiaume.

Getting those wind turbine parts from Morterm’s west end docks to Port Alma, and erecting them – without unduly disrupting traffic along the way – is Mammoet’s assignment, says Kitchener-based project manager Mark Metcalfe.

Mammoet operates worldwide with a reputation for being able to move anything, anywhere. The company took part in raising the submarine Kursk, which sank after mysterious explosions in 2000. All 118 crew members died.

For the Windsor to Port Alma project, Metcalfe believes it’ll take seven truckloads a day, five days a week, for three months to do the job.

Each flatbed truck, spaced about a half-hour apart, will be escorted to Port Alma by three police cruisers.

“It’s a lot of people, a lot of resources,” says Essex OPP Sgt. Jason Younan. Mammoet pays all police costs.

The 80-metre, rolled steel turbine towers are shipped in three sections. Some weigh as much as 88 metric tonnes.

“You can imagine getting that thing off the ship,” says Berthiaume.

Each of the three, carbon fibre turbine blades is 45 meters long.

Essex and Chatham OPP, as well as Chatham-Kent police, have written a 30-page manual that details how the operation will unfold.

Essex OPP Staff Sgt. Ian Chappell led months of planning.

Permits to move the oversized loads had to be obtained from the City of Windsor, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and other municipalities with jurisdictions for the roadways used. Emergency services were notified.

“You can’t leave anybody out,” says Metcalfe.

A test run will be made with a single truck April 14. If all goes well, the convoys will begin April 21.

No trucks will leave Morterm before 9 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic on Ojibway Parkway, E.C.Row Expressway, Huron Church Road and Highway 3. They’ll also try to avoid noon to 1 p.m. traffic.

The problem is not the weight of the loads, the height or the width, explains Metcalfe. It’s the length.

The critical issue was what would happen at three intersections in Windsor and one on Highway 3 just east of Leamington where the trucks would come to a stop and have to make a turn, he said.

“Our main problem is making the corners,” Metcalfe said. “That’s really the only issue.”

Police will have to stop other traffic at each of those four intersections to ensure the trucks can complete the turn.

Pictures of the route were taken and computer simulations done to check the clearances at the corners, said Metcalfe. Some traffic signs may be temporarily moved so the trucks can turn at those intersections, he said.

The goal is to limit delays for other traffic to no more than a few minutes at each of those four intersections, Metcalfe said.

There are no problems with bridge clearances or overhead wires. Once underway, the trucks will move at posted speeds and mix with other traffic, Metcalfe said.

The trucks with loads will be within the widths needed to avoid interfering with oncoming traffic. “They’ll fit into one lane,” said Metcalfe.

Paul Bouliane, transportation planner for the city’s public works department, said oversized loads move through Windsor streets fairly often without much impact on traffic.

What’s unusual about this project is the length of the loads and the numbers of them over a three-month period, Bouliane said. He’s going to drive along on the test run April 14 to make sure everything goes as planned.

“The whole project from start to finish will be very exciting,” says Morterm’s Berthiaume. He’s planning to go down to Port Alma to see the wind turbines being erected.

Berthiaume is confident of Morterm’s ability to handle a unique challenge.

“We’re very happy to see the business,” said David Cree, CEO of Windsor Port Authority.

The scarcity of ports along the north shore of Lake Erie that can handle ocean freighters ensures that Windsor will likely get the bulk of similar shipments in the years ahead as more wind farms are built in Essex County and Chatham-Kent, Cree said.

Port Robinson, near Welland, would be the nearest port that could handle similar ships. However, the overland route would be longer, Cree noted.

Because of the extra costs in transporting oversized loads by truck “you keep it on the water as long as possible,” said Cree.

A reception will be held Thursday after the Delaware’s arrival as the first “salty.”

Gary Rennie

The Windsor Star

4 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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