1,000-foot-long Transport Draws Crowd

Jun 23, 2010

A 640-ton transport wending its way from East Tennessee to Virginia is moving along like a slow-moving procession - and drawing crowds as it lumbers through towns.

"It's actually drawn more spectators than complainers," said Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Traci Barrett. "It's been like a parade with people bringing out their children and lawn chairs."

Despite a schedule that restricts the convoy to move only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., crowds are gathering along the way.

The 1,000-foot-long convoy of vehicles began its planned 170-mile land journey Saturday from the Forks of the River Industrial Park. The convoy includes a 803,000-pound steam generator on a special transporter. The transporter is being pushed and pulled by at least four 1,000-horsepower trucks described by Tim Fielder as "tractor-trailer rigs on steroid."

The generator came to the industrial park by way of ship from Japan and then on a barge at Baton Rouge, La., said Fielder, with Barnhart Crane and Rigging Company, which is in charge of the transport.

The destination is a coal-powered power plant operated by Dominion Virginia Power in St. Paul, Va., in the southwest portion of the state in Wise County.

Fielder estimated the move would take 15-20 days, but the convoy has been hours ahead of schedule each day so far. Fielder said the most challenging part of the trek so far was just leaving Knoxville.

The convoy includes electrical crews that raise and lower power lines as the procession progresses. Bridge and road inspectors with the Tennessee Department of Transportation also accompany the transport to ensure the heavy load is not damaging state roads or bridges.

Barnhart Crane and Rigging posted a $15 million bond with TDOT to cover any potential damages. Julie Oaks, TDOT spokeswoman, said inspectors have noted no ill effects thus far.

The convoy followed U.S. 11E to Morristown and then picked up U.S. 25E. Movers will continue on U.S. 25E until they hit U.S. 58, which will take them to St. Paul, Va.

"We hope in three days to reach the Virginia line," Fielder said Tuesday. He estimated the convoy is moving about 3 mph..

Barrett said a challenging portion of the move came Tuesday night, getting the load off Clinch Mountain, where it stopped Tuesday morning in Grainger County. Because of road construction on U.S. 25E in Grainger and Claiborne counties, Barrett anticipates challenges.

"We have had some issues with traffic," Barrett said. "Our biggest problems have been where there are no alternate routes."

She said the THP, which is escorting the convoy, has not issued any citations to impatient motorists. There have been no difficulties with drivers trying to go around the group, mainly because the size of the transport doesn't allow it.

The schedule calls for the convoy to stop today in Tazewell and to stop near the state line Thursday. On Thursday night, the convoy is slated to arrive in Virginia, where it will stop Friday morning in Ewing.

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