500-Ton Generator Brings Traffic To A Crawl

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A 500-ton mass of steel and tires gnarled Highway 87 northbound for hours Wednesday morning as the tractor-trailer carrying a piece of Springerville's new power plant chugged into Payson.

The 250-foot long trailer, pulled by one heavy transport vehicle, and pushed by two, carried the stator -- a large iron cylinder used to generate the magnetic field that produces electrical energy.

"I think Highway 87 turned into a two-lane parking lot," said Sandy Traxler, postal worker. "I was late for work by about 10 minutes."

Traffic backed up for miles as Department of Public Safety officers worked with the 1 million pound cargo's 20-person entourage, which included two electricians, two cherry pickers and a welder, to raise traffic lights and clear the way for the heavy equipment.

"We have to make certain that he had right of way because he can't stop or start on a dime," said DPS Sgt. John Whetten. "We couldn't allow anything to get in his way."

The 661,000-pound cylinder, manufactured in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is the heaviest individual piece of equipment to be delivered to the Springerville Generating Station's building site.

Kieran Jones, field superintendent for USA Contractors Cargo Co., the outfit responsible for the transport, said the trailer, called a Tandem trailer, is made of one of the strongest alloys, T1 steel.

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Transporting cargo as large as the load that came through Payson Wednesday, requires a year of planning and a crew to travel with the trailer. The 20-member entourage, comprised of electricians and other specialists, accompany the trailer to disassemble power lines and make other adjustments, as the huge freight moves through municipalities.

At maximum speeds of 25 to 35 mph on flat road, and 10 to 15 mph uphill, the load, has taken one month to get from Long Beach, Calif. to Payson.

Tucson Electric Power, the owner of the power plant, anticipated the equipment's arrival at the end of February or early March.

Jones said a transportation project like this requires the coordination of bureaucracies and laws.

"There's a lot of routing and bridging laws that you have to research and get clearance on," Jones said. "It takes about a year of planning to get something like this going."

The trailer has 44 axles, 146 tires and is expandable, with the unit's hydraulic running gears, to 20 feet wide.

The trucks are built for heavy loads and are equipped with specially constructed rear ends and transmissions to handle the weight.

Jones said USA Contractors Cargo, which has transported the space shuttle, can make a trailer taller and longer by adding axles.

Their largest load, a part for the La Paloma power plant in McKittrick, Calif., was more than 1.4 million pounds.

The Springerville power plant expansion project is scheduled for completion in September 2006.

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