Commissioners, UPRR aim for collaboration

TORRINGTON – It took several months’ worth of phone calls and letter writing, but Union Pacific Railroad finally sent a representative to meet with Goshen County Commissioners during their regular Tuesday meeting. At issue is damage to county roads by trucks hauling railroad ties to and from repair projects in the northern part of the county.
“We tried several times in the past to have a railroad representative at our meeting so we could discuss the problem, but had no response,” Commission Chairman Carl Rupp said following the session. “I finally had a couple of phone conversations with Sarah (Cassidy) and she agreed to meet with us. We appreciate that she came and we could voice
our concerns.”
Cassidy, director of public affairs for UP in Colorado and Wyoming, is based in Denver, Colo. She spent more than an hour listening to the county’s concerns as voiced by Road and Bridge Superintendent Jerry Hort, and surveyor Bob Taylor, who contracts with the county.
Hort was especially concerned with damage to the road at the railroad overpass and to a bridge. He said an approximately one-foot wide gap which has developed could cause a vehicle to crash. In addition, the heavy trucks have broken down shoulders of the road, and churned some roadways into powder.
“The county doesn’t have the money to make repairs,” Hort explained. “I feel Union Pacific is responsible for the sub-contractors you hired. They told me the bridge wouldn’t fall down, but that isn’t the problem. It’s a safety issue. It could cause a car to crash.
“My concern is that the Van Tassell Road is a main route.
“We need to have cooperation. I’d like to get it taken care of with
an agreement.”
Taylor said a plan needs to be developed to repair current damage and to prevent future damage.
“We need to know what traffic we’re looking at, and determine what ‘normal use’ means,” Taylor said. “We’re prepared to deal with normal traffic. It’s when it’s not normal to this county, then we have
a problem.”
Hort said the county’s resources limit him to upgrading only three miles of gravel road per year. There are 18 miles of road in the
problem area.
Commission Chairman Rupp said the county ran out of gravel and had to apply to the state for a mining permit to open another gravel pit, which takes about five months. With current financial resources, it takes 35 to 40 years to apply new gravel to the county’s 1,025 miles of
gravel roads.
Cassidy thanked the county for its reasonableness in dealing with the issue. She said she would take the issues to the company’s engineers. The concerns include finding better ways to transport the concrete ties, possibly by rail, limiting damage to the roads and damage to the bridge and overpass.
Both parties agree that improved communications are a must and would help county crews maintain the roads if they know where the heavy traffic is going to be.
Following the meeting, Cassidy said she was more aware of the problems faced by the county and would relay its concerns to
company officials.
“Union Pacific wants to be good partners,” she said. “I can understand the county’s frustrations and we’ll see what we can do to improve communications, as well as improve ways to coordinate work schedules. This is an opportunity to improve courtesy and partnership.”

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