Transfomer slowly moves on Interstate toward destination

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(Host) This week, people have been seeing an unusual scene on the highway – a truck creeping down Interstate 89, hauling a mammoth, 335-ton electrical transformer.

Vermont hasn’t seen many of these shipments lately – what the Department of Motor Vehicles calls "super loads."

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports that’s because the "super loads" aren’t necessarily welcome.

(Sound of truck revving, wheels crunching gravel)

(Latterell) "We’re about half of what we’ll be doing. On the Interstate we’ll be getting up to 7, 8 miles an hour. We’re probably doing a mile or two an hour now.

(Sneyd) The man behind the big move is Earl Latterell. He works for Mammoet, a Dutch company that specializes in moving heavy loads.

The transformer began its journey at the Burlington waterfront and is destined for a Vermont Electric Power substation in Williamstown.

(Sound of tires on gravel)

(Sneyd) Nineteen axles support the weight of the transformer. Operators sit at different stations on the trailer _ which is nearly half the length of a football field. Controls raise and lower the load and turn the axles independently. Seven police cruisers travel with it in a convoy.

(Latterell) "It’s takes a lot of planning and having the proper equipment."

(Sneyd) State officials don’t mind planning the logistics for getting giant equipment to a Vermont company that needs it.

But they don’t like beating up the state’s roads and bridges – and sometimes causing monumental traffic jams.

Bonnie Rutledge is Vermont’s commissioner of motor vehicles. She says that’s why the state adopted new regulations a few years ago banning super loads. They’re allowed if the shipment starts in Vermont, ends in Vermont, or is part of the direct route.

(Rutledge) "Every state becomes the path of least resistance if you have regulations that will allow the loads through."

(Sneyd) That’s just what happened a few years ago when a 155-foot trailer literally got stuck at the Four Corners in Bennington for at least an hour.

The truck was hauling a tank from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Mexico.

And its route took it through Burlington and Bennington to avoid more stringent regulations in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The load that’s been making its way through Vermont this week, though, needs to be here, so it got a state permit.

VELCO – the electrical transmission company – is in the midst of a $70 million upgrade of its Williamstown substation.

VELCO has tried to keep the disruption to a minimum. Vice President Kerrick Johnson says the European-built transformer was shipped mostly by sea.

(Johnson) "It’s involved waterways, involved the port of Montreal and the Champlain waterway and came down the Richelieu River and the like. It’s had quite a journey already."

(Sneyd) And there’s another transformer just like it sitting on the Burlington waterfront. It’ll be shipped the 50 miles to Williamstown next week.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd:

(Host) That truck pulls out of the Williston rest area on Interstate 89 this morning at 9 and will get to the South Barre exit this afternoon.

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