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Drive Our Economy applauds ITD decision to uphold impartial CCH decision, allowing permits for shipments

Today, Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness upheld the decision by Judge Duff McKee in the impartial Contested Case Hearing that rejected arguments brought against the shipments in Idaho.  For the second time in as many years, Director Ness and two impartial judges – Merlyn Clark and Duff McKee – found that the shipment’s transportation plan is in full compliance with Idaho state law.

State judges and officials have continually reaffirmed the intricate safety planning in the 1,700-page transportation plan, despite numerous frivolous attempts by activist opponents to stop the shipments in Idaho.  Some $40 million in bond payments have been paid to ensure that any damages are covered, no matter how unlikely they are.

And the public supports the shipments as well.  More than half of Idahoans support the shipments, in addition to the six Northern Idaho counties that have passed resolutions of support.  With nearly $50 million in economic activity already generated in the region from the shipments, it’s clear why support is so strong in Idaho.

This is not just a win for advocates of the shipments.  This is a win for open access to Idaho’s roadways, local contractors, grain growers, and businesses across the state that rely on straight-forward transportation permitting.  Now, the Port of Lewiston no longer has to sit mired in permitting uncertainty.  The Port, where many of the shipments currently sit awaiting permit approval, has been a major benefactor in the transportation plan.

Drive Our Economy, and in particular our 19 Idaho-based coalition members, applaud the decision by Director Ness.

Local leaders, businesses support additional route deicison

Companies involved in shipping oversize shipments this week announced a decision to pursue additional routes throughout the Pacific Northwest. The development represents an important step towards boosting regional transportation and commercial activities for our ports.

The announcement comes after years of activist-driven procedural and legal delays frustrated proposed shipping routes along U.S. Highway 12 in Idaho and Montana. As a result, permits are now being sought for movement along additional interstate routes in Idaho, Montana and Washington.  Here are a few basic facts about this latest update:

  • The original Highway 12 route is still being actively pursued for future shipments and shipments currently at the Port of Lewiston
  • Two additional routes have been identified and permits are being pursued in order to quickly, safely, and effectively move all of the shipments in a timely fashion.  These routes are necessary because of the years of procedural and legal delays driven by outsider activists.  Those routes are:
  1. From the Port of Lewiston north along Highway 95, the shipments would move to Interstate 90 into Montana, then north along Interstate 15 to the Canadian border.
  2. From the Port of Pasco in Washington north along Highway 395, the shipments would move to Interstate 90 into Idaho and Montana, then north along Interstate 15 to the Canadian border.
  • These planned shipments comprise only a small fraction of the number of oversize loads that routinely travel through the region.  According to Washington Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Legg, Washington sees over 7,000 similarly sized loads travel its highway every year.
  • There would be no negative environmental impacts or costs imposed on state agencies or local communities for the interstate shipments.
  • Shipments contain no chemicals or hazardous materials.

The continued support of state and local officials for this project demonstrates to businesses across the country and around the globe that the Pacific Northwest supports regional investment.  Read more about the reaction of regional business and community leaders to the additional routes.

Sixth Northern Idaho County Throws Support to Oversized Trucking

Proposed oversized commercial shipments on Idaho highways received a major boost in momentum this week as another Idaho county rolled out the red carpet for big rig trucking by adopting a resolution of support.

“Nez Perce County this week became the sixth northern Idaho county to adopt a resolution in favor of oversize megaload transports,” reports the Spokesman-Review. “Nez Perce commissioners join the commissioners of Idaho, Clearwater, Lewis, Shoshone and Boundary counties in adopting such resolutions since December.”

The move by county governments to support oversized trucking is a reflection of broad public support for trucking across Idaho. Statewide, a solid majority of residents support the shipments, and in counties closest to the proposed route, residents back shipping by an overwhelming two-to-one margin, suggesting that residents most affected by the project are most likely to support it.

“There’s no question public support is building for this particular project, and for allowing commerce in general to proceed on Idaho’s roadways,” said Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

Click here to read the resolution.

Moscow City Council Joins Counties in Supporting Shipments

In a sign that local momentum for regional transportation projects is building, another Idaho locality voted in mid-May to support oversize trucking. The Moscow City Council voted to roll out the welcome mat for oversize trucks, after it became clear that truck convoys would produce a boon in business for city motels, restaurants, gas stations and other small businesses.

In voting in support of oversize shipping, the council sided with local residents over the very vocal and widely publicized objections of Mayor Nancy Chaney. Parroting broadly discredited arguments coming from national environmentalists opposed to trucking and transportation, Chaney had claimed that trucking would have on negative impact on local roads. But the council rejected those arguments.

The council “does not believe the movement of the proposed megaloads in the city of Moscow will have any inordinate impact on infrastructure or community,” read a statement released by the council subsequent to the vote. “Furthermore, we invite and encourage ExxonMobil and their hauler to utilize Moscow as their stopover for motels and the purchase of food, fuel and other supplies” as they run transports along the route.

Moscow’s vote mirrors similar resolutions in support of oversize shipments that have been passed by Clearwater County, Lewis CountyIdaho County, Shoshone County and Boundary County.

Support for oversize shipments in Idaho along proposed oversize shipping routes stands at 67 percent to 30 percent, according to publicized polling.

Idaho Appeal Hearing This Week Could Upend Regular, Local Commerce

This week, the Idaho Transportation Department will meet with companies involved in the Highway 12 shipments and the plan’s opponents during a contested case hearing presided over by Judge Duff McKee.  The hearing will determine whether guidelines governing commercial transportation in Idaho are established by rules and laws, or by activists and out-of-state protests.

While Idaho debates the future of the shipments, local workers continue to show their support.  Coalition member Becky Brotnov of Jackson Towing in Kamiah, Idaho took this picture of workers showing support for oversize shipments. These workers want to “keep Idaho green” by supporting new jobs and new economic activity during tough economic times.

Becky Brotnov of Jackson Towing in Kamiah, Idaho snapped this photo of workers involved with the Highway 12 shipments

As Judge McKee weighs testimony this week, one thing is clear: locals support the shipments.  Recent polling shows that, among residents living along U.S. Highway 12, support for the shipments stands at nearly two-to-one. The Idaho Legislature also recently voiced its support by passing legislation aimed at preventing more frivolous lawsuits intended to delay shipments.

This week’s contested case hearing is an opportunity for Idaho to show its support for local jobs and commerce, and to stand up to outsiders intent on turning Idaho’s economy into a political arena. Idaho commerce cannot be taken hostage.  As coalition member Doug Mattoon, executive director of Lewiston-based Valley Vision, noted, “This hearing will determine whether transportation – the backbone of commerce for our region – is dictated by Idaho rule of law and established regulations or ideological-driven protestors and undue out-of-state influence.”

Press Release: Timely Idaho Appeal Process Critical to Local Economy

Timely Idaho Appeal Process Critical to Local Economy

Contested Case Hearing will Determine Whether Transportation and Commerce are Regulated by Established Rules and Regulations or Protests and Activists

BOISE, IDAHO, April 25, 2011— A hearing this week to determine whether the shipment of oversized loads on Idaho’s Highway 12 is governed by the rule of law is critical to the state’s economy, says a coalition of local community and business leaders.

“This process has enormous implications on the future of our local economy,” said Doug Mattoon, executive director of Valley Vision. “The hearing will determine whether transportation – the backbone of commerce for our region – is dictated by Idaho rule of law and established regulations or ideological-driven protestors and undue out-of-state influence.”

At issue is whether shipments that comply with all state requirements pertaining to oversize trucking should be allowed to move forward. If blocked, or further delayed after an already extensive two years of planning, an estimated $100 million in Idaho and Montana economic activity could be lost.

Previous oversize shipments have proven enormously popular among small businesses along the route, as shipments have produced marked increases in business. Public opinion along the proposed route – U.S. Highway 12 – stands at nearly two-to-one in favor of issuing the permits.

The coalition is hopeful that a timely decision will be reached at the hearing.  Local leaders have characterized the debate as between those who believe commercial access to public roads should be determined by straightforward rules applied fairly and uniformly, and those who believe commerce and industry should be dictated by subjective standards driven by politics.

“Oversize trucking is a critical part of state and regional commerce, and each and every one of these shipments represents a boon to struggling small businesses along U.S. Highway 12,” said Dave Mager, a life-long Highway 12 trucker, “This project and the accompanying investments are producing jobs in our community at a time when the economy is hurting and struggling families need all the help they can get.”

Drive Our Economy is a task force of community, business, and agricultural leaders who have joined together to promote economic strategies that benefit Idaho and Montana. For additional information, visit: www.DriveOurEconomy.org. To speak with Doug Mattoon or Dave Mager, please contact [email protected].

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Missoula County Commissioners Putting Jobs, Growth and Tax Dollars at Risk

Recently, the Missoula County Commissioners joined with out-of-state activists in suing the Montana Department of Transportation in yet another effort to deny the region the jobs and growth associated with the Highway 12 shipments.  Opponents of the shipments brought a frivolous lawsuit in Idaho in the past and failed, but now have set their sights on Montana.

A recent Missoulian editorial faulting this most recent activist lawsuit is spot on:

The MDT’s analysis has already concluded that no significant damage is likely to occur. Apparently, Missoula’s commissioners and their fellow plaintiffs would like the MDT to keep digging until they find some evidence of irreparable harm – even though common sense indicates no such evidence exists…

Worst of all, we already know who will lose this lawsuit. Either Missoula taxpayers will, as the people funding the county officials bringing the lawsuit – or Missoula taxpayers will, as the people funding the state agency being sued.

The reality is that these activists are ignoring the will of the people.  Recent polls have shown that support for the shipments is overwhelming – 67% along Highway 12 in Idaho and 65% in Montana.  In addition, the Idaho State House and Senate have both passed bills supporting the shipments.  They join Governors Otter and Schweitzer, three of the four counties along Highway 12 in Idaho, and two counties in Montana in expressing their vocal support for the project.

The facts are pretty clear: Idaho and Montana have $100 million in jobs and growth on the line, free from any taxpayer expense.  Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous lawsuits, the Missoula Commissioners should be focused on Montana’s employment.  It’s time to let the loads roll.

More local polls showing booming support for megaloads

With each passing day, local support for the shipments continues to grow.  A recent online poll by NBC Montana found that an overwhelming majority of Montanans support the movement of oversized shipments along local highways.  According to KECI, 77% of respondents were in favor of allowing the shipments across Idaho and Montana.

Given all of the incredible benefits the region is set to gain – from new highway turnoffs, local jobs, improved highways for local industries, more work for state troopers – it comes as no surprise that the more locals learn about the shipments, the more they support it.  A recent poll by the Motor Carriers of Montana discovered the same trend: when Montanans were read a brief, unbiased description of the shipments, support for the project grew from 65% to 75%.  According to the poll by KECI, the number of Montanans supporting the project has now jumped to three quarters of respondents.  That’s great news for locals looking for jobs, for farmers looking to ship their goods, for restaurants and hotels along Highway 12 and Highway 90, and for our region’s professional truckers and contractors.

Just ask local business owners who recently began to see an uptick in sales as a result of the first shipments.  An AP story from this past weekend indentified some of the locals who have seen the shipments as a boon to their local economies:

“’Honestly, it’s great,’ Smith said. ‘It was a huge boost for Kooskia.’

Among the businesses on U.S. 12 that benefited were the NAPA store in Kooskia, the Purple Feather Smoke Shop in Kooskia and Orofino Builders Supply.

Cindy Manning, the operator of the Country Side Cafe, rated Thursday an A-plus, with their specialty huckleberry sourdough pancakes selling well – like hotcakes. ‘It was a very good day for winter when we really needed it.’”

With $100 million in regional economic activity estimated to come to Idaho and Montana, more locals continue to express their support.  A similar poll conducted by the Helena Independent Record also found growing majority support for the shipments.

Overwhelming Support for Oversized Shipments in Montana and Idaho

This week, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Motor Carriers of Montana, co-chairs of the Drive Our Economy task force, released the results of new surveys in Idaho and Montana demonstrating overwhelming local support for proposed oversized shipments through the region.

In both states, two things were clear: the overwhelming majority of local residents support these projects and that support only grows as people learn more.  In Montana, statewide residents supported the shipments by a 2-1 margin – 65% to 30%.  After those surveyed were read a thorough description, support ballooned to 75%.  Next door in Idaho, an incredible 67% of residents who live near Highway 12 were supportive.  Statewide, a clear majority of residents also supported the project, with 52% approving.  Local supporters have clearly made up their mind in support of this important opportunity for the region.

Given the current economic climate, it comes as no surprise that support for the shipments and the accompanying jobs and investment is so high.  In fact the polls demonstrated that the economy and unemployment remain the top concern for Montanans and Idahoans, with both states ranking the economy as their top concern.

First Transportation Permits Recommended for Approved

Yesterday, Merlyn Clark, an independent case hearing officer appointed by the Idaho Department of Transportation recommended that 4 oversize shipments for ConocoPhillips Billing’s refinery should be allowed to proceed.  The ruling marks an important step forward in approving all outstanding permits, and protecting the more than $100 million in estimated local economic benefits that follow the proposed shipments.

Clark’s decision came after a full hearing that allowed opponents of the shipping projects to air their grievances.  According to media coverage, Clark ruled that:

“The evidence … clearly establishes that ITD performed its duties and exercised its discretion in processing the application.  ITD should issue the overlegal permits to allow (ConocoPhillips) to transport four oversize loads of equipment from Lewiston, Idaho, to the Montana border over U.S. Highway 12.”

Idaho and Montana business leaders and residents applauded the decision.  See more from Alex Lebeau, President of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, Frank Priestly, President of the Idaho Farm Bureau, and Barry Stang, Executive Vice President of the Motor Carriers of Montana, here.