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Double-size trucks on way

Bigger, but fewer, coal haulers deemed safer option

Brandon Gee
A coal truck returns to the mine after dropping off a load of coal at the Hayden Station Power Plant along Routt County Road 27, also known as Twentymile Road, near Hayden on Tuesday afternoon.
Brian Ray

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved, with conditions, a petition by Xcel Energy to increase the size of trucks hauling coal on Routt County Road 27, also known as Twentymile Road.

The decision was made at a hearing Tuesday at which Xcel sought to extend its special-use permit to haul coal on the road between the Hayden Station power plant and Peabody Energy’s Twentymile Coal Mine and amend it to allow for overweight and overlength trucks.

Some safety concerns were raised regarding the larger trucks, which will pull two trailers of coal instead of one. But in the end, the consensus among commissioners was that the large trucks were the safer option. An Xcel official said the larger trucks would cut the number of trucks on the road by more than half.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that reducing the number of trucks will be safer,” Commis-sioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Hayden Station Director Sharon Brady told the commissioners there are 22 truck trips made per hour between the power plant and the coal mine. She said that number could be reduced by 68 percent – to seven trucks – with the use of doubles. Additionally, Brady said coal would need to be hauled only five days a week instead of six.

While everyone agreed fewer trucks are preferred, there were some safety concerns raised about the larger trucks. Routt County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper confirmed the trucks climb slowly and would go as slow as 16 mph on some of C.R. 27’s hills.

While some improvements to the road, paid for by Xcel, have been completed to accommodate the trucks, the installation of some passing lanes is not complete. Draper said there are still three hills without passing lanes that could pose a danger to cars caught behind the slow-climbing trucks. The construction of those lanes is expected by November 2008.

Steps to mitigate safety concerns were outlined at the meeting. The trucks will reportedly use flashing lights when traveling less than 30 mph. Glenn Jones, technical specialist in Xcel’s engineering group, said the trucks also will be fitted with sensors that trigger warning lights as the trucks approach intersections on C.R. 27.

Brady said Xcel plans to equip the trucks with a GPS system that will allow the company to see where trucks are and how fast they’re going. The system, which has yet to be tested, would e-mail Hayden Station if a truck is speeding, allowing Xcel to see what truck it was, where and at what time.

“I’m very encouraged by the idea of the GPS systems,” Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

Links Freight Management of Hayden is the trucking outfit that runs the coal haul for Xcel. Shift Supervisor Gary Hurd attended the hearing with commissioners and touted the trucks that would be used to haul doubles. He said the trucks are new and have advanced braking systems. He also dismissed concerns about trucks speeding on C.R. 27.

“We have no reason on this 16-mile haul to speed,” Hurd said.

Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips said most of the complaints received about the coal haul do not concern Links trucks, but rather subcontractors that are hired to supplement Xcel’s trucking needs. Brady said the double trucks would eliminate the need to use such subcontractors, barring any unforeseen events that would diminish the surplus coal supply at Hayden Station.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com


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