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This transformer will be moved from Seabrook to Londonderry, N.H.

SEABROOK — What weighs 1.1 million pounds, is 234 feet long and costs almost $6 million?

It’s a behemoth that soon will be crawling New Hampshire’s roadways on route to a Public Service Co. station in Londonderry, a 345,000-volt transformer that’s destined to become a nexus for electricity distribution throughout New England. It will travel on a total of 24 axles on a massive custom-built hauler.

Sometime later this fall, the huge rig will make its way from Seabrook’s dock down Route 1A through Salisbury — at times traveling the wrong way on the interstate — on its way to PSNH’s Scobie Pond facility in Londonderry.

All told, it will cover about 43 miles of mostly two-lane New Hampshire byways such as routes 107 and 102, mostly traveling at night at around 2 miles per hour.

On Wednesday, selectmen gave PSNH representatives the go-ahead to offload the 600,000 pound transformer from a barge expected to arrive this fall at the dock in Seabrook Harbor.

The transformer was built in South Korea and presently sits in New Jersey, waiting for a barge to bring it to Seabrook sometime toward the end of this month or the beginning of November. Once in local waters, tug captain Dave Winslow of Winslow Marine of Portland, Maine, will shepherd the barge to the dock.

Off-loading the transformer should take about two days, said Maguire Group engineer Joseph Allwarden, whose Portsmouth firm is coordinating the move for PSNH and the hauling company, Connecticut’s Marino Crane.

It will take five to seven days to build Marino Crane’s hauler around it. The hauler looks like two giant low-bed trailers (the kind more commonly used to carry bulldozers and other heavy equipment) with the transformer suspended in a metal frame between the two.

When completed, it will begin its nighttime journey heading south on Route 1A.

Salisbury Police Chief David L’Esperance said it will travel from Seabrook along Salisbury’s North End Boulevard, take the turn onto Beach Road and proceed to Lafayette Road (Route 1). It will take Toll Road and get on Interstate 95. Traveling north on I-95’s southbound lane, the rig will get off the interstate, again going the wrong way up the Route 107 exit off I-95. Once on Route 107, the trailer will proceed west on New Hampshire secondary highways, making its way to Londonderry and PSNH’s Scobie Pond facility.

The cost of Marino Crane’s tractor pulling the load — with its 600 horsepower Cummings engine — is about $2 million. Mark Coyle of Marino Crane said the company has more than a dozen similar projects taking place in Connecticut.

Seabrook’s price for accommodating the move — to be negotiated in coming days — is expected to be $3,000 to $5,000 to be placed in a maintenance fund for the dock. Town Manager Scott Dunn said landing large loads at the facility could be another small revenue source for the town, although he doesn’t think similar projects will present themselves more than once or twice a year at most.

Seabrook’s approval is vital to the project, Allwarden said. Seabrook is the most critical piece of the move, Allwarden told selectmen, because with a load this large, Seabrook’s dock is the only one that gives the rig access to Londonderry along a relatively bridge-free route.

Allwarden said other heavy loads have come through the Port of New Hampshire on the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth. But there are several long-span bridges to be maneuvered in Portsmouth, he said, and this transformer — at 16 feet high, 39 feet long and 13 feet wide — is too big to make it under or over the bridges there.

“Portsmouth is surrounded by water,” Allwarden said. “You hit a bridge wherever you go. We had to seek an alternative route.”

PSNH has a history of using Seabrook’s harbor to deliver huge items. The company actually built Seabrook’s dock facility when it constructed the nuclear power plant in Seabrook decades ago. The dock area was given to the town and is currently leased to the Yankee Fisherman’s Coop.

Over past weeks, the dock was used by Florida Power and Light — the current owner of the nuclear power plant — to bring in enormous cement dry storage modules and transport them at night to the plant over a 10-day period.

FPL wasn’t charged for its recent use of the dock because it’s the town’s largest taxpayer, Selectman Brendan Kelly said. Selectmen felt they should accommodate the plant at no cost.

In addition to paying the landing fee, Marino Crane will post a bond and agree to fix anything damaged in the process. But, Marino officials said, they’ve been in business for 53 years and have not had an accident yet.

The new transformer is part of a $19 million PSNH project at the Scobie Pond facility to ramp up distribution power and meet the electricity needs of New England, according to PSNH Transmission Project Leader Richard MacNeill.





READER BOX

HAULING DATA

Specs on the 12-axle trailers

Trailer weight: 180,075 lbs.

Payload weight: 592,064 lbs.

Weight per axle w/load: 42,639 lbs.

Weight per tire w/load: 5,337 lbs.

Specs of Tractor

Tractor type: Mack

Tractor weight: 49,000 lbs.

Tractor counterweight: 44,000 lbs.

Combined gross weight with axle loads: 1,110,621 lbs.

Maximum ground bearing pressure: 830 pounds per square feet

Overall dimensions: 234 feet x 18.4 feet x 16.6 feet

Source: Marino Crane

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