The Vermont Agency of Transportation has received complaints about how wind turbine parts are being trucked from Island Pond to the Lowell wind project site.
Observers say that truck loads with turbine blades are barely making it through the main intersection in Island Pond, Some also worry over the impact to a temporary bridge and impacts on private property, among other complaints.
So far, Vermont AOT officials have found no violations of the oversize and overweight trucking permits issued to Lone Star Trucking of Texas, which is handling the turbine shipments, said Rich Tetreault, director of AOT program development.
The company “is not in violation of the permit,” he said Monday.
That assessment does not include the accident Thursday involving an overturned tractor trailer hauling a turbine tower on Interstate 91 southbound in Irasburg, Tetreault said. That accident shut down I-91 for hours Friday morning while a crane moved the turbine tower base, causing traffic problems in Newport City where the highway traffic was detoured.
Tetreault could not say whether there were any violations that led to or happened during the accident. He said he is waiting for a report from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Details from DMV were not available Monday.
The shipment of the turbine parts began July 13 from the rail yard in Island Pond. The truck loads travel by the truck route of Route 105 through Island Pond, Charleston’s two villages and Derby Center before reaching I-91 southbound. From I-91, the loads exit in Orleans and take Route 58 through Irasburg to Lowell and the wind site entrance on Route 100.
Tetreault began receiving comments as soon as the shipments began.
“I’ve been in direct contact with some of the concerned observers,” he said.
Most concerns are about the main intersection on Route 105 in downtown Island Pond, next to the bank branch in the former train depot, he said.
The truck and trailer loads cross the railroad overpass, travel down around a curve into the center of town by the bank branch and then turn left across the intersection, Tetreault said.
In reaction to some of the comments, Tetreault said he sent an AOT engineer to observe a shipment on the move through Island Pond on Thursday, he said.
The engineer watched a load with a turbine blade go through that intersection, he said.
“It did take some maneuvering.”
Observers are complaining about the 40 to 50 minutes that it takes for a blade shipment to get through that intersection, delaying traffic on Route 105, Route 111 and Route 114, according to one email sent to state officials. Several complained that private property had been damaged.
Some have asked for the state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board to hear their concerns and stop the shipments.
The PSB approved the route as did AOT.
John Beling, consumer affairs director for the Vermont Department of Public Service, received some of the complaints from residents who want a hearing on the shipments. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Photographs were taken by observers of the truck driver being forced to back up near the bank, including an image of a wind turbine blade tip coming close to the building.
AOT is not responsible for any damages to private property, Tetreault said. That is the responsibility of the contractor which hired Lone Star to make the shipments for Green Mountain Power.
Tetreault said his agency approved the permits for the shipments. He expected that some turns would be challenging.
Another concern that has reached Tetreault is fear that the overweight loads will damage a temporary bridge over a culvert that had to be rebuilt after Tropical Storm Irene hit the area last fall.
“We have no concerns about that bridge,” he said.
The bridge is intended to handle the regular heavy trucks that travel on Route 105, which is the northern east-west truck route through Vermont. The turbine loads have more axles to distribute the weight of the load. The 120 turbine loads would cause less damage to state roads than the trucks that travel the route regularly, Tetreault said.
Another problem encountered by drivers was at Derby Center. The shipment drivers have to drive north through the village on Route 5 and turn around at Fred’s Propane storage lot in order to make the intersection of Route 5 and 105 at the Cow Palace in the village.
Tetreault said he had not expected that intersection to be a problem.
He is not surprised that there are some problems with the route, saying that sometimes things have to be worked out during the first loads that go through.
GMP is installing the turbines at the Lowell wind site.
Robert Dostis, a spokesman for GMP, said Monday that the turbine shipments have escorts to assist in their safe movement. “The transport vehicles travel under the direction and control of the police escorts,” he said.
The Essex County Sheriff’s Department is handling the escorts.
“Safety is the primary focus for the transport of equipment as it is for all aspects of the Kingdom Community Wind Project,” he said.
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