Oil companies plan shipments on rural Montana roads

By Kirsten Frattini in Asheville, NC | Friday, January 14, 2011 6.30pm

Idaho and Montana may soon lose their cycling-friendly luster as the Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans to allow mega-load transports of oil industry equipment on the states scenic highways.

The Adventure Cycling Association voted against the transportation proposal in an effort to maintain Montana’s cycling-friendly environment. Last May, the group asked for a more rigorous federal environmental impact study of the proposed mega-load shipments.

MDOT’s transportation plan includes the use of Highway 12 that travels through Idaho and Montana, and Highway 200 in Montana. The two routes are the most direct and least costly for oil companies ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to ship large assembled modules and equipment.

According to the plan, trucks will be moving slowly and likely at night, however, Adventure Cycling Association executive director Jim Sayer is concerned about the significant changes proposed along the corridor. “The plan includes many new pull-outs and the potential long-term conversion of relatively low traffic back roads and highways into a permanent industrial shipment corridor,” he said. “We are uncertain how to stop this and Adventure Cycling is just one small part of the situation.”

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“There are many people, businesses and groups opposed to this project for different reasons. However, state officials do not appear inclined to stop the project at present and the head of Montana's Department of Transportation has said that this project could lead to converting the corridor into a major industrial shipment corridor.”

The proposed shipment corridor would cuts through hundreds of miles of routes that have been used for more than three decades including the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail, Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail and Great Parks North Bicycle Route.

“We have two categories of cyclists, bicycle tourists-travelers and local-regional cyclists,” Sayer said. “These highways are very popular routes for local cyclists. Last year, 1,100 plus cycle-tourists visited our offices during business hours, nearly all of them using routes that will be affected by the project proposal.”

Adventure Cycling Association is a non-profit bicycle travel organization with nearly 45,000 members designed to inspire people to travel by bicycle.

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