Getting there is half the fun
Routing superloads such as those for Sunflower Wind Farm across Kansas’ roads takes choreography.
That’s because getting oversized and overweight trucks where they need to be is a dance — a safety dance, if you will.
The wind farm going up west of Sunflower Rd. has been an oversized-truckapalooza.
Most drivers have no idea what it takes to move such loads across the state. Often, all they know is how annoyed they are about having to slown down or wait for a flagger to wave them on when traffic is down to one lane — as it’s often been on US-50 lately.
On Monday, there were “10 birds in the air,” as Marion County commissioner Randy Dallke put it.
Roughly 30 towers at the farm still need to go up, KDOT estimated.
Those 30 towers translate into to 180 to 200 more loads impacting drivers.
Anyone traveling north on I-135 between Wichita and Newton has driven by or behind huge trucks hauling huge towers that will get huge blades.
Kansas Department of Transportation is the choreographer.
A supervisor, a bridge load rater, three superload raters, and three staff members answer phone calls at KDOT’s central permitting call center. KDOT also has one to two staff members in each district who approve permits.
“All staff have a part in approving oversize and overweight permits issued for the state,” communications director Steve Hale said. “The superload routers and staff in central permitting work full time on permitting.”
Each of KDOT’s six districts has an employee and a backup employee who process route permits as one facet of their job.
Height, width, length, and construction restrictions are programmed into a routing system. Only a router with district approval can override restrictions. Each district — Marion County is District 2 — is responsible for routing restrictions in their areas.
“Districts work with headquarters to set permanent restrictions, such as turning radius or raised railroad trucks,” Hale said.
As they gain experience, routers often have knowledge of routes to be avoided. Those can include routes that don’t have a restriction applied.
KDOT’s headquarters takes primary lead to help reduce workload at the district level, but districts have final approval on routes.
“Districts have confidence the routers can and will make good decisions for the type of permit being routed,” Hale said.
Wind farm superloads are no different than any other type.
“Some wind farm operators and wind turbine manufacturers maintain an open dialogue with KDOT regarding timetables and the sizes and volumes of moves,” Hale said. “These conversations can start well in advance of the loads being moved.”
But plans are just that — plans.
“Even with a well-laid plan, changes in construction traffic flow can disrupt anticipated routes,” Hale said.
US-50 through Peabody has been down to one lane at times to accommodate trucks headed to the wind farm. Flaggers are stationed along the route.
Hale said KDOT’s understanding was that the anticipated completion date — weather permitting — is mid-December.
On Monday, county commissioners expressed concern about damage to roads such as Nighthawk, Sunflower, and 110th. A majority of loads go up 110th Rd. off US-50.
Nighthawk appears to have “immediate” damage from trucks, commissioner Kent Becker said.
“Could we ask the wind farm to pay for some of it?” he asked.
Dallke said he thought the wind farm would be open to discussing the matter.
“I think we have a pretty good case to present to the wind farm,” he said. “They have equipment on the ground for half the site. They’ve got 10 birds in the air.”
Last modified Nov. 16, 2022