Tanks a sign of economic shift

There was a time when trucks serving industry so clogged area roads that the local populace cried out for as many four-lane expressways as possible.

The area will witness a kind of modern-day return of heavy industrial traffic on Sunday when a heavy-hauling company will move one of a half-dozen huge tanks from a barge facility below state Route 7 north of the Steubenville Marina to the MarkWest fractionator plant near Hopedale.

A fractionator is a natural-gas processing plant that separates gas into various components for further refinement. The MarkWest Hopedale plant is providing construction jobs now, both on site and along a pipeline connecting it to a processing facility at Cadiz.

The big tanks that have been drawing attention are part of the Hopedale operation.

With escorts from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, private firms and the Ohio Department of Transportation, an experienced oilfield heavy hauler, Total Energy Heavy Haul Corp. of Texas, will be using special equipment to move the first huge tank across the county Sunday morning. The mammoth cylinder will form a load about 20 feet wide, 17 feet, 4 inches tall, and 260 feet long. The load weighs about 570,000 pounds.

ODOT reports the hauler’s logistics team has been working with state officials on planning for the move, expected to be the first of six in the near future.

What it means to area drivers is that there will be a rolling roadblock on Sunday, from 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m. or so, moving along from Steubenville to Wintersville on U.S. Route 22, then out state Route 43 to Cadiz Road and back over to Route 22 at the Reeds Mills on-ramp. The move was planned to avoid the busiest times on local highways, and area motorists are being cautioned that the big load will be moving around Sunday, so drivers should plan accordingly.

There was a time when steel coil haulers ruled the roads, back when steel was king of local industry. But the shift to energy production has already brought with it a host of odd-looking trucks with all sorts of equipment aboard moving about the area.

While the move may be inconvenient for some, and may tie up a bit of traffic, the huge tanks are the latest sign of that economic shift in the region.