816 North

Movement of huge transformer requires highway closures

Updated: 2014-01-17T20:49:07Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

It’s going to look something like a huge alien creeping ever so slowly through the Northland night.

The movement of an electrical transformer weighing nearly half a million pounds will require the closure of two interstate highways and disrupt two other highways from Liberty to near Smithville over Thursday night and Friday morning.

The transformer belongs to Kansas City Power & Light Co. and will connect to the Iatan power plant to increase reliability and reduce congestion on electrical transmission lines.

It’s a big deal all around — for the utility, for the Missouri Department of Transportation and for Edwards Moving & Rigging Inc., the Shelbyville, Ky., company hired to conduct the move.

The load will be 18 1/2 feet tall. The pusher truck, puller truck and loaded 36-axle trailer will be 195 feet long and weigh 727,000 pounds. The whole thing will have to cross the interstate median at times to avoid overhead signs and other obstructions.

That will require shutting down Interstate 35 in both directions between Missouri 291 and Missouri 152 for up to 1 1/2 hours. Then the transformer will take Missouri 152 west to Interstate 435, which will be shut down in both directions to U.S. 169 for up to four hours. The destination is the Nashua substation at U.S. 169 and 132nd Street.

MoDOT said highway restrictions will begin as early as 7 p.m. to establish median crossings, adjust traffic signal heads and raise overhead utility lines. The movement of the transformer will begin about 11 p.m. and last until about 7 a.m. Friday.

The transformer was built by General Electric in Mexico and transported to Liberty by rail, said Chuck Caisley, a spokesman for KCP&L. The utility is contractually barred from disclosing the price, but Caisley said transformers like this — one of the largest in the KCP&L system — generally cost between $2 million and $4 million.

It will receive 345,000 volts from the Iatan transmission line and convert it to 161,000 volts for the utility’s distribution lines. Smaller transformers convert that to 120 volts for a typical household. Caisley likened the Iatan line to a fast interstate highway and substation transformers to cloverleafs that slow traffic down.

“And they just happen to be very big and very heavy and very expensive,” Caisley said, “so you want to make sure that nobody runs into them and that you’ve got plenty of room.

“That’s why it moves very slowly.”

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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