Copake copes with a big trucking deal

COPAKE—It is a spectacle, an organizational marvel, a sight to behold and showtime is most every Sunday through Thursday night in the hamlet of Copake.

It all started on an ordinary evening in mid-May.

County Route 7A resident Grant Hermans was at home like most of his neighbors, some watching TV, some having dinner, some puttering in the yard or sitting on the front porch when the calm of the spring evening was shattered by a passing motorcade of police cars, utility trucks and escort vehicles all scurrying around one behemoth of a tractor trailer hauling something huge.

One of the 196-foot-long loads bound for a power plant construction site in Dover, parked overnight August 6 at the vehicle repair shop just north of Weed Mine Road in Copake. Photo by David Lee

Mr. Hermans told The Columbia Paper this week he did not know in advance it was coming, but once it appeared he couldn’t help but notice it was “a big deal.”

He said there were cars outfitted with poles sticking straight up to measure if the overhead telephone and utility lines were high enough to allow the load to pass.

If not, then utility trucks would raise the lines and, in the case of Folger’s Corner where the lines hang low, workers in bucket trucks lassoed the lines with ropes and yanked them up.

State Police cars cleared the way with lights flashing, other cars made sure no street signs were clipped as one musclebound tractor pulled the up-to-50-ton load and another pushed it from behind. A spare tractor followed, ready to step in should the pusher or puller poop out.

People sit aboard the trailer to aid in steering, said Mr. Hermans, who noted that the trailer “must articulate” in the middle or the whole thing could never negotiate Folger’s Corner, the sharp corner on County Route 7A at Farm Road.

More and more people have been showing up to witness these momentous transport occasions—bringing out their lawn chairs, refreshments, some getting an ice cream cone to keep cool while watching the show.

The convoy travels “painstakingly slow” and maybe takes five minutes to pass by, said Mr. Hermans. It’s not just the gargantuan load, but all the activity leading up to and following the big rig that makes it so riveting.

What all the hubbub is about is the transportation by Bigge Crane & Rigging Transports of components for the $1.58 billion Cricket Valley Energy Center (CVEC) “a 1,100 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired power plant now under construction on an industrially-zoned site off Route 22 in the Dutchess County community of Dover. The 193-acre property at 2241 Route 22, has existing energy infrastructure, including electric power lines and a natural gas pipeline, as well as a substantial tree buffer that will minimize visual and sound impacts. The location provides an important opportunity for economic revitalization, creating jobs and tax revenue for the Town of Dover. These factors combine to make it a smart site for CVEC’s clean-burning natural gas power plant,” according to the website www.cricketvalley.com.

Information from the natural gas-fired facility says it will use state-of-the-art, environmentally-responsible combustion turbine technology, and will be among the most efficient energy producers in New York, with the ability to generate electricity for nearly one million homes.

The components being hauled include turbines, generators and “heat recovery steam generator modules,” according to an official with the company doing the hauling, who asked not the be identified.

The trip begins at the Port of Rensselaer and traveling on state Routes 20 and 22, ends in Dover about 90 miles away. Speeds vary from 5 mph on the hills to 30 mph on the straightaway; on average, if the journey is made in one trip, it takes seven hours, said the official.

But the convoy has to make a detour off Route 22 in Copake because the bridge over the Bash Bish Brook at Weed Mine Road is not safe for the weight of the loads, which vary depending on the cargo, from a half-million to more than a million pounds. The tractor trailers vary in size from 380 to 196-feet long, 22 to 18-feet wide and 15 to 12-feet 10inches high. Hauling hours are limited to between 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. give or take.

The official said his firm performed engineering studies prior to beginning the haul and despite “some tight corners” has encountered no unforeseen issues along the route.

Columbia County Department of Public Works Engineering Division Director Dean Knox said by phone Wednesday, that all bridges—county or state—have to be designed to the same standards or the same weight-carrying capacity.

Superloads” like the ones traveling through Copake spread the weight of the load over more of the bridge surface. It is not unusual that while the bridge on State Route 22 just north of Weed Mine was deemed not structurally adequate to bear the weight, the smaller bridge on County Route 7A near the laundromat is fit to accommodate the load.

Mr. Knox said he did not know why the Route 22 bridge did not pass muster during analyzation by both state Department of Transportation and the Dover project officials. But, he said permits for the transport route would not have been issued if the smaller bridge had not measured up.

As for the detour through the hamlet, Mr. Knox said he suggested to Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer that he sell hot dogs to onlookers to make a little money for the town.

The hauling official noted that six to ten troopers and three to six civilian vehicles escort the component loads, which will continue to pass through the hamlet on County Route 7A from the north to south hamlet entrances through mid December, making a total of about 45 trips loaded and 45 trips empty. “It’s a circus,” he said.

Some onlookers in Copake agree.

I always clap when they get done,” said Mr. Hermans.

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