|A coal truck enters Castle Dale from the north, one of hundreds passing through local communities each day.|
Back and forth, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the wheels keep rolling. Truck after truck transports coal into the county from Carbon and Sevier counties. Emery County coal is also taken from the mine to the railhead or to the Hunter Plant, south of Castle Dale.
Since Consol has geared up trucks travel to the mine south of Emery and back along SR-10 to the railhead at CV Spur. This flurry of activity has some county residents concerned about the speed of these coal trucks through local communities.
Not all coal trucks speed through our Main Streets and because the vehicles are large and noisy, they sometimes appear to be going faster than they are and at times they are going faster. What can we do to keep ourselves and our families safe amidst the big rigs? I attended a meeting recently where someone commented on the trucks through the town of Emery. They said a truck passes through Emery every two minutes. One man said he had raised his daughter for 16 years and kept her safe and now he had to turn her loose on the highways with a bunch of coal trucks.
I would like to see the awareness raised of the drivers in the county. I would like to see adherence to the speed limits and traffic laws. I commute each day from Huntington to Castle Dale, if you can call that a commute, it's just a short pleasant drive. Usually. One morning I was tooling along at 65 mph, on the straight stretch of road about two miles north of Castle Dale, I was confronted by a large semi-truck in my lane of traffic passing another vehicle. I saw him coming and immediately slowed down and moved to the right side of the road to allow him to pass. If I had not seen him soon enough, I probably would not be writing this story.
Point being, we all do stupid things as drivers and sometimes we don't live to tell about it. As people leave Castle Dale headed north there is a small hill there and a lot of people try to pass cars there that haven't picked up their speed yet. I think a little patience in these instances could go a long way towards ensuring the safety of drivers in the community. I know that regular cars and pickups make things tough for truck drivers also. They pull out in front of a big rig carrying 40-45 tons of coal and expect the truck to be able to stop and not hit them from behind. We live in a rural community, but we also have big city traffic problems. The sheer volume of trucks and cars mixed together should make us more aware and we should slow down.
I drove the speed limit this morning as an experiment to see how many cars would pass me on the way to work. The traffic was light and I was up to 65 mph when a car came around me. I generally have this problem, I think 65 is fast enough and cars always pass me. I go to Green River a lot and doing 65 mph on that road causes much frustration from drivers behind me even though SR-6 is one of the most deadly highways in America, people still do not slow down. We had a brother and a young nephew killed just outside of Green River by a Colorado driver making bad passes. Speed kills, I know this to be true and people still disregard speed limits. Yes, we have law enforcement but they can't be everywhere at all times and we need to be responsible drivers and take responsibility for our own safety.
We have all been passed by people on double lines or when cars are coming and everyone arrives at the stop light in Price at the same time. Or, you hit the McDonalds in Spanish Fork at the same time as that idiot who passed you in Spanish Fork canyon with deer, elk and other cars coming.
I fear for the pedestrians in our towns. My husband, who by the way drives one of these coal trucks, stopped for a small child wanting to cross the road pushing her bicycle. She had waited a long time at the crosswalk and no one, not cars or trucks would stop and let her cross. He stopped to let her go when a vehicle came up fast on the other side and almost hit the child. Why would a coal truck be at a dead stop at a crosswalk if someone wasn't crossing the street? What a new idea. A pedestrian in a crosswalk. We have total disregard for pedestrians in our communities and when we do stop it puts the pedestrian in a dangerous position.
|Coal trucks head north on Castle Dale Main Street.|
On an average day 450 truckloads of coal enter the Hunter Plant. Plans are being made to make the interchange into Hunter Plant safer. They are in the permitting process and hope to start on the road project this summer which includes widening and a cloverleaf interchange. Twenty to 22 percent of all the coal mined in Utah comes into the Hunter Plant. Steve Cowan from Hunter Plant views the truck traffic as an economic boon for the county employing probably 300 people in the trucking industry and bringing tax dollars into the county. The Quitchupah road proposal, which would cut travel time in half for drivers bringing coal from SUFCO to the Hunter Plant, is still being evaluated and environmentalists are against the project.
Coal from Emery County mines, Genwal and CW Mining travel SR-10 between Huntington and Price with hundreds of loads over the road each day.
Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon said one of the biggest problems they have with speeding comes from kids going to school in the mornings and home in the afternoons. Coal trucks are no different than other drivers they will speed when they have the opportunity, but not all of them. Anything over the speed limit is speeding whether it is five, 10 or 15 miles over the limit. "Speeding is a problem because many of our county roads are narrow and there are few places to pass. If a few coal trucks are in a line and traffic gets backed up, there are few opportunities to pass and that's when you get people passing in an unsafe situation; on double yellow lines and other scenarios. People need to exercise patience when driving. When you enter a community in our county and the speed limit is 35, you must be driving 35 when you hit that sign. When leaving a community, do not accelerate until you have passed the sign leaving the town.
"The truck drivers are just out there trying to make a living. They do not want to have an accident and they certainly do not want to be involved in an accident that takes someone's life. It doesn't look like anyone will fix our roads for a long time, the truck traffic is destroying our roads and not anyone is worrying about it. There are no plans to change that. If this problem existed along the Wasatch Front, they would be widening the road to accommodate the traffic. But, no one seems willing to do that here, but our local officials.. We only have a certain number of deputies and they are out there writing a lot of tickets and warnings. Some people won't slow down no matter what and a ticket isn't a deterrent to them. As soon as they are out of sight of the officer they are speeding again. It is amazing we don't have more accidents.
"Our citizens help us quite a bit, they are always calling and reporting people making bad passes and driving unsafely, we need that. We can't be everywhere at all times. Other drivers can sign complaints against other drivers they see committing violations.People drive a lot differently when there's an officer around. They will even stop at the stop signs. But, you need to stop at the stop signs and then only proceed when it is safe to do so. Just because you have stopped at a stop sign doesn't give you the right of way. We have people tell us they stopped, but then they pull out in front of someone. Use caution. One of the worst intersections is getting back on SR-10 from SR-29, at the Orangeville turnoff, especially the school kids in the afternoon are notorious for pulling out in front of cars and trucks.
"People also need to remember that pedestrians have the right-of-way. You need to stop for pedestrians and pedestrians need to watch the traffic. If it doesn't look like a vehicle is going to stop, then don't challenge it; wait for a safe time to cross. We need to police ourselves and drive with awareness. We need to be more alert as we come into the summer driving season. You have tourists on the road who aren't in a hurry, farmers who aren't in a hurry and coal trucks who are hurrying to make a load. When you add children on bikes and walking to that mix you have the potential for some dangerous situations.
"One thing we have found that works is the speed signs that flash your driving speed as you are entering a town. This helps to slow people down, but we only have two of them to use countywide. We need more of these signs, if we could fund them in some way. There should be a sign entering and leaving each of the towns.
"Just because someone else is violating the law doesn't mean you have to. It will take the whole county working together to get through these speeding and traffic problems. I hope it doesn't take a tragedy to get people to slow down.
"We have four officers per shift. One in Green River, one south, one north and one central. We will continue to do the best we can with what we have. People need to drive safely, use patience and help prevent tragedies. If I had the funding, I would put two officers on SR-10 each day, they would do nothing but patrol back and forth all day. This would be a big deterrent to speeding. They would be out there and know what's going on. But, I can't get the funding to do that. Our officers have to respond all over the county and don't have the luxury of just spending time on that road," said Sheriff Guymon.
Part II of this series will focus on funding options for road improvements.