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Turbines to test drivers' patience; Trucks to cut through city for three months  

Watch out Windsor motorists, here comes the mother of all convoys.

Beginning April 21, Dutch transportation giant Mammoet is planning to move the massive sections of 44 wind turbines to be erected at Kruger Energy’s $200-million wind farm in Port Alma through the city’s west end.

Initially arriving by freighter at Morterm, each of the six ships will take three days to unload, says Mammoet vice-president Terry Berthiaume.

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

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

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. That’s about 420 truckloads into the beginning of August.

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.

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

The 80-metre, rolled steel turbine towers are shipped in three sections. Some weigh as much as 88 metric tonnes. Each of the three carbon fibre turbine blades is 45 metres long.

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

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 roads used. Emergency services were notified.

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

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.

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.

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.

“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.

Gary Rennie

The Windsor Star

5 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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