BELFAST, Maine — Truckloads of wind turbine components will travel through the city at night this summer instead of during the day as initially planned.
City Manager Joseph Slocum said the Department of Transportation revised its plans after meeting with the City Council on Monday. The shipments of turbine components still will require shutting down part of U.S. Route 1 at certain periods during overnight hours, he said.
The original plan had called for shipping the components from the Searsport docks during the day. City officials balked at that proposal because of concerns that it would create traffic jams that could jeopardize the tourist season.
The shipments will occur during June and July. They will run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will require shutting down the highway while the 150-foot-long trucks travel between the Veterans Memorial Bridge and Route 3. The highway could be shut down as many as eight times a night, Slocum said. Additional shipments will be made along the same route during the early summer of 2010.
Slocum said most of the shutdowns would take place this year, as many of the components for the 2010 project will be delivered through Canada.
Although the DOT has projected that the same route could be used for future wind energy projects, the council, at this point, agreed only to the two-year plan. Slocum said members wanted to gauge the amount of disruption before agreeing to a permanent plan.
“We need to look at it after having lived through it for two years,” Slocum said Tuesday.
Because of overpasses on High Street and Waldo Avenue, the trucks will leave the bridge at the High Street on-ramp, continue down Field Street and return to Route 1 on the Waldo Avenue offramp. Slocum said city police and fire departments would be alerted in advance of each shipment. State police cruisers will travel in front of and behind each truck, and flaggers will be situated at all street crossings.
TransCanada Maine Wind Development is constructing a 44-turbine, 132-megawatt project on Kibby Mountain in western Franklin County near the border with Quebec. The project is expected to begin producing electricity next year.
Reed & Reed of Woolwich is the engineer-procure-construct contractor on the project and has hired James W. Sewell Co. of Old Town for survey, permitting, design and utilities coordination for any road improvements needed during the project. Sargent Corp. of Stillwater has been retained to construct the road improvements in accordance with DOT standards.
Slocum said the project would require the removal of three trees from private property on High and Field streets, which the company has agreed to replace. He said changes also would be made to the sidewalk on the High Street on-ramp as well as on Field Street. In addition, the DOT will remove an island at the Routes 1 and 3 intersection to accommodate the turning trucks.
Slocum said the council wanted assurances that any notices to the public about potential traffic delays caused by the shipments emphasize that the shipments and subsequent delays will occur only at night. He said the council was concerned that drivers, particularly tourists, would decide to avoid Route 1 because of the shipments.
“The council is worried it will get posted by AAA and people will get scared off. They are worried about the local economic impact; that is a huge issue here,” Slocum said. “Route 1 is important to the entire region. We’re concerned about the impact to Camden, Bucksport, all along the coast. We don’t want people avoiding Route 1. We want people to stay on Route 1. That is the gateway.”
The size of some of the turbine components prompted the DOT to restrict the trucks from traveling in convoys. He said that after the trucks transit the city each night, they will stop along Route 3 and continue to Kibby and Skinner townships in staggered shipments.
“There is no big staging area at the mountain so they basically will be assembled as they arrive there,” Slocum said.