County decides on gravel haul route

By Hank Lohmeyer

County decides on gravel haul route | Eckert, Gravel Pit, North Road

Illustration: Delta County Aerial view of the SH65-North Road intersection showing road rights-of-way (white dashed lines), the county's proposed lane striping plan (solid white lines), and the shadow of an 18-wheel gravel truck (black line figures) maki

The county's choice for a haul route from its yet-to-be-opened North Road gravel pit has been decided.

The county intends to send its ten-wheel end-dump trucks and its 18-wheel belly-dump trucks through Eckert's congested SH65-at-North Road intersection.

But businesses that operate at the intersection and residents who live there are against the decision. They voiced their opposition at a work session meeting with the Orchard City Town Board on Nov. 4.

The county is faced with developing a replacement source of gravel for local roads when the Antelope Hill gravel pit is finally closed. Estimates for that closure happening have ranged from four to ten years in the future.

When that does happen, county gravel trucks will need to make their ways to various points in the county from the North Road pit. There are only two options for direct travel from the pit to Highway 65.

One option is for trucks to travel west on North Road and then take a cutoff along 2190 Road and Myers Road to Highway 65. The other option is to run straight west from the North Road pit to the intersection at Eckert. Both of the travel options have problems.

The work session meeting had been called to explain to the Eckert neighbors why their intersection had been the one chosen for the primary haul route, and to try to get them to offer suggestions for improvements to the Eckert intersection plan.

Orchard City Mayor Don Suppes told the group, "We brought you residents here to get suggestions of what we can do to improve the plan." The town endorses the county's haul route decision, in part, because it is the shortest on town roads. "We want to get the heavy trucks off of town roads as quickly as possible," he said.

The heavy, loaded gravel trucks cause considerable wear and tear on the town's roads. North Road is maintained by the town for a short distance east of the highway. The 2190-to-Myers Road route would keep the gravel trucks running on town roads for a much greater distance.

The county was represented by District 2 Commissioner Bruce Hovde and by Dan Sickles, roads superintendent. Hovde handed out full-color maps showing the lane striping plan that the county has devised for making the intersection's tight turning radiuses negotiable by the big, belly-dump semi-trailer gravel haulers.

"We looked at Myers Road extensively," Hovde explained. "The speed limit on Highway 65 there is 45 while it is only 30 at North Road."

Residents asked why the highway speed limit at Myers Road couldn't be lowered. Suppes explained that a CDOT traffic study could result in the speed limit there actually being raised.

Myers Road also offers the advantage of much less congestion than the North Road intersection is.

The drawbacks to using Myers Road include the cost of required turn lanes the county would have to construct. And the connecting 2190 Road would have to be completely rebuilt to accommodate loaded gravel trucks.

Suppes explained also, "To rebuild 2190 Road and Myers Road would cost millions. And if we chose that route, we would only be sitting here tonight with a different group of residents complaining about it to us."

Suppes also noted that the Eckert intersection has been determined to be "one of the safest in Orchard City." That was a statement the residents quickly disagreed with.

The owners of Drost's Chocolates and the Big E cited numerous events they have witnessed involving traffic confusion, parking violations that created obvious hazards, near-miss incidents, and even actual accidents in just the past two years.

The business owners also see more problems in the road ahead. The county's preferred haul route will hurt Drost's business, the owners say, and the Big E building which is built directly on the county's road right-of-way line could suffer damage from vibration, and that concerns owners Gary and Lisa Espinoza.

Nevertheless, Hovde and Suppes noted several points in the Eckert route's favor including the following ones:

• Large trucks and semis are already using the intersection now.

• Actual volume of truck traffic will be relatively low, except when there is a road project using gravel from the pit.

• The Town of Orchard City gets complaints from residents about the traffic on every road in Orchard City in any event.

• And the cost and safety issues count heavily in the Eckert route's favor.

In response, the seven local residents who attended the session were not deterred and did not waver in their opposition. They countered the county and town points with arguments of their own including the following ones:

• The North Road intersection is already congested and unsafe.

• There are no guarantees that heavy truck traffic won't keep growing and growing.

• The truck traffic there now causes vibrations that rattle windows.

• The heavy traffic disrupts day sleeping.

• Children and handicapped people who live at the intersection are endangered by the traffic which is already there.

• Limited parking in front of the Big E can be an issue when customers ignore parking signs. "People don't even know what 'parallel parking' means," said Big E owner Gary Espinoza.

• Drivers just ignore lane striping and advisory traffic signage.

The county and town officials were also apprised of a traffic-endangering "sink hole" that exists in the town's North Road right-of-way. Residents asserted that the sink hole presents a threat to heavy truck traffic.

Suppes noted that the public complaints and opposition were being taken into consideration. "We hear that," he said.

In the end, Hovde and district 2 road superintendent Sickles left the meeting with about four specific suggestions they will be able to implement and show as due diligence in making the decision for the North Road haul route. The suggestions include striping on the intersection's southeast corner; moving a stop stripe to improve visibility; and placing additional sign-age in front of the Eckert Presbyterian Church and on North Road eastbound.