Highways simply aren’t made to accommodate loads as large as the one that made its way through Marion County during the weekend.
At 280 feet long, it was approximately three times the length allowed without a special permit. At 18 feet, 10 inches from the road to the top of the cargo, it couldn’t go under bridges or overpasses. At 15 feet, 10 inches wide, it took all of one lane and one-third of another. And at nearly 300 tons, it was more than seven times the weight allowed on Kansas highways without a special permit.
But ONEOK Inc. needed a way to get its deisobutanizer vessel to the company’s Bushton Processing Plant from Sauder Custom Fabrication on the east edge of Emporia, and it was too large to send in a single piece by train. So the behemoth container had to be transported by trucks.
It took a pair of semi trucks, one to pull it and one to push it. The vessel alone was 205 feet long. For a comparison, the courthouse square in Marion is 208 feet from east to west.
The drive through Marion County on K-150 and U.S. 56 was the most straightforward part of the journey. The highway is mostly straight with no overpasses to be circumvented. The main complication in the county was the bridge on U.S. 56 on the north edge of Marion. To cross bridges, an additional axle was required to distribute the weight load.
Loads exceeding the normal parameters allowed on highways are known as super loads by Kansas Department of Transportation, but there is no terminology for loads as enormous as this because they are so rare, Joe Palic of KDOT said.
“This is the biggest one I’ve seen, at least this close,” Palic said. “It looks like a rocket.”
Despite its size, the rig can reach 40 to 45 mph on the open highway, Palic said. Its length is it too long for cars to pass it, so it occasionally pulls over to allow traffic that has backed up behind it to pass, he said.
A smaller, but still very large, rig passed through Marion County on Nov. 7 or 8, Palic said. That rig was 195 feet from end to end, including the trucks, and weighed almost 500,000 lbs. There aren’t any more super loads planned to go through the county at this time, Palic said.