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Wind-turbine sections squeeze through 1935 Rumford bridge

RUMFORD – Mid-afternoon on Wednesday wasn’t a good time to travel through Rumford and Mexico on Routes 2 and 108.

Maine State Police troopers were escorting a huge wind-turbine tower section through both towns when the convoy met a steel truss bridge built in 1935 over the Androscoggin River on Route 108.

Southern Tier Express Inc. truck driver Shawn Mills of Andover, N.Y., had to hydraulically lower the huge cylinder to fit under the bridge support beams while trying to keep the load from dragging across the bridge span. He then had to raise it a bit after eking through, and then repeat the process for the other side.

The rig and load took up both lanes on the two-lane highway during the painstakingly slow process getting through the bridge, backing up traffic for miles and prompting calls to the Rumford police station to find out what was delaying traffic.

Once safely on the other side and with the load again raised to traveling height, Mills proceeded slowly onto Route 2 while straddling the centerline as troopers directed and stopped traffic, allowing the rig to cross both lanes while rounding the corner and heading up Falls Hill at a snail’s pace.

Southern Tier Express operations manager Mike Barnes in Andover, N.Y., said Wednesday that the load was the last of six sections of a wind turbine being hauled from Houlton to Greenfield, Iowa.

Two Southern Tier Express tractor-trailer trucks carrying blades for a second wind turbine leave Houlton at 6 a.m. on Thursday, bound for Iowa via the same route, Barnes said. They will be followed by four more tractor-trailer trucks carrying the rest of the second turbine.

Trucks carrying the blades for the first turbine went through Rumford on Monday, followed by the first two tower sections on Tuesday.

“I believe they were bought for a project, stored up at the (Houlton) airport, never used, and I’m going to say they’re being sold – and I don’t know how many are up there – to different places around the country to get rid of them,” Barnes said.

“We have the same situation down here. There was a big project and they were going to put 50 (towers) up and they just sat there, and now they’re going to Salt Lake.”

He said Southern Tier Express is only hauling two complete wind turbine towers through Maine to Iowa in this job. Each tower consists of the hub, the generator, blades and the tower, which is in three sections, for a total of 12 tractor-trailer loads.

“They’re pretty interesting, the blades,” Barnes said. “They take a special steerable trailer and I think they have two blades on each trailer, although some of them are big enough where you can only put one on each trailer.”

The tower base section alone is 72 feet long, which Barnes said “is the biggest, heaviest and bulkiest piece.”

The company has been hauling wind turbine parts and sections across the country for six to eight years.

Ironically, the turbine parts traveled through Dixfield, in which two anti-wind power groups were holding an informational meeting Wednesday night on the noise and economic effects of industrial wind projects sited on Maine mountains.

Additionally, Rumford selectmen will hold a workshop with their Wind Power Advisory Committee at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, in the municipal building auditorium to likely work on the committee’s draft wind power ordinance that a Boston-based wind developer labeled anti-wind power.