January 13, 2011 |

Make way: Heaviest load eyed for road

Shipment of a huge electrical transformer will test local port facilities and may help demonstrate that Haines can serve as a transport hub for larger projects.

Nickel Brothers, a Seattle-based company that specializes in moving oversized loads, wants to bring a 165-ton transformer to Carmacks, Y.T., via Haines this spring, atop a 107-ton trailer. The transformer is for a Yukon power station.

State transportation officials say the 544,000-pound load would be the heaviest moved on the Haines Highway, and possibly the heaviest ever on any Alaska road.

By contrast, the largest excavator at Southeast Roadbuilders weighs 120,000 pounds.

"It’s pretty big. They have a special trailer to carry it," said Haines Borough facilities chief Brad Maynard. "The truck and trailer carrying it are 218 feet long. That’s longer than most parades in Haines lately."

The weight will be distributed on 20 axles and 122 tires. The trailer resembles a series of wheels tied together by trailer tongues.

Maynard is tasking PND Engineers of Juneau with assessing if the borough’s roll-on, roll-off dock can accommodate the weight, and if not, what reinforcements are necessary. Other modifications may have to be made at Lutak Dock, but Maynard is optimistic.

"I think it’s doable. I’ve been looking into it a little bit," he said.

While the weight would be considerable, it would be distributed over multiple axles. Per axle, it would be less weight than a large forklift carrying a 30-ton container van, he said.

If the big load can make it through, the company would ship a dozen or more smaller ones through the dock, he said. "This will be the largest. One will weigh 30 tons less. They feel if they can get one across (the dock), they can get the rest across."

Though Skagway offers a more direct route to Carmacks, the Klondike Highway won’t be used because the Capt. William Moore Bridge north of Skagway can’t hold that much weight, according to Rex Young, chief of commercial vehicle enforcement for the state Department of Transportation.

Young said DOT bridge designers are analyzing the proposed haul in advance of permitting, and state officials will be on hand for bridge crossings.

Distribution of the weight means the load won’t damage the Haines Highway, Young said, noting that loads up to 2 million pounds have been moved on roads elsewhere. "You put enough tires under something and distribute the weight, and you’re good to go."

The borough’s Maynard said that with the expansion of mining in the Yukon, the successful transport through Haines could make the Haines Highway route more attractive to shippers, Maynard said. The local highway is wide, sees low traffic and has few obstructions like low-lying power lines, he said.

"If we can accomplish this task, this could be a significant milestone for moving heavy loads through Haines," Maynard wrote to the borough assembly this week.

"Once we get confirmation and get going on it, I think we need to make a big deal of it. I’m hoping for good coverage. It may be one of the biggest loads through Southeast… I think if people get word of it, it will start working for us."