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Turbine blades' downtown route is no bum steer

It turns out that recent shipments of king-size wind turbine blades that cut through the heart of downtown Buffalo were not off course after all.

Mary Joyce Permits of Randolph, which plotted the delivery trucks' course and arranged escort vehicles, purposely steered the bulky loads from the Peace Bridge, down Niagara Street to Niagara Square and up Delaware Avenue.

"We would love to stay out of downtown, but with height restrictions and road construction, it's the only way we can go with them right now," said Mary Joyce, executive of the firm which bears her name.

In the past two weeks, at least three tractor-trailers hauling 125-foot-long wind turbine blades from Quebec to the High Sheldon Wind Farm in Wyoming County have snaked through downtown Buffalo, stalling traffic and turning heads.

On Thursday, a representative of Invenergy, the Chicago-based company that is constructing the Sheldon facility, told The Buffalo News the trucks had ended up in the downtown core because of a routing error.

"We made that assumption based on incomplete information. It didn't sound like a normal route for those large shipments," Susan Dennison said Friday.

Joyce, whose company sets up routes, secures transport permits and provides escort vehicles for trucking firms around the country, said the goal is always to "get 'em on interstates whenever possible."

But she said that's not possible with overly tall loads coming into the U.S. from Canada in the Niagara Region. Only the Peace Bridge can accommodate shipments more than 14 feet high, and after they cross, they can't fit under wires and overpasses to go directly onto the I-190.

Joyce has dealt with those issues for several weeks by routing loads of turbine blades and tower sections away from downtown on Niagara Street, then down Amherst Street across North Buffalo toward the Kensington Expressway. But that route was short-circuited in recent weeks by construction on Main Street.

"It's not ideal, but we've got the required city permits, and we'll continue to bring them through downtown until the construction situation changes," she said.

Shipments of the massive parts are scheduled to arrive at the Sheldon site through the fall as the 75-turbine wind farm takes shape.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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