96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735

On our front page this week

  • Proposed rail line, Levan to Salina, will reduce truck traffic; public is invited to make comments

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

It is time to make thoughts known in the environmental review process concerning the construction of a 43-mile line of single-track rail line from Levan to Salina.

Juab County Commissioners were asked to submit comments on the project by Victoria Rutson, Chief in the Section of Environmental Analysis for the Surface Transportation Board in Washington D.C.

"We would like everyone in the county who is interested to have the opportunity to make comments on the project," said Wm. Boyd Howarth, commission chair.

Commissioners agreed that all interested citizens should be invited to make comments during this process.

"Anybody who has a comment is invited to send those comments to the board," Robert Steele said.

It is anticipated that the community of Levan will directly benefit from the railroad because, once it is constructed, it will reduce the truck travel through the community.

Rutson did not make a specific estimate of the number of trucks passing through Levan on a daily basis.

"Most segments of these loads currently carry 750 trucks per day, with 1,500 tucks passing through downtown Salina each day at a rate of about one truck per minute," said Rutson.

Reducing the number of trucks on these roads would decrease roadway congestion and increase the quality of life through towns impacted by the travel.

Not only will truck traffic through communities be reduced by the rail line, but road surfaces will have longer life. The wear and tear on state roads and interstate highways will be decreased.

On July 30, 2001, the Six County Association of Governments (SCAOG), which is made up of Sevier, Juab, Sanpete, Millard, Piute, and Wayne Counties, applied to the Surface Transportation Board for authority to construct and operate a 43-mile line of new single-track rail line.

The line would operate in Sanpete, Sevier and Juab Counties.

"The proposed line begins at the connection with Union Pacific Railroad's mainline near Levan," said Howarth.

The connection at Union Pacific would be a between the Juab and Sharp Sidings, where the track would then travel southward and east of Chicken Creek Reservoir. The rails would generally follow a path near an existing power transmission line that goes through the center of Juab Plain.

Juab Plain consists of the valley between the South Hills to the west and the Skinner Peaks area to the east.

The proposed railroad then runs parallel with the Easter boundary of Yuba Reservoir and continues east of the reservoir until it reaches the point at which the reservoir narrows at a point known as Yuba Hills. The line then continues south, west of Yuba.

The railroad will then travel southward along the western side of the Sevier Valley near areas where the foothills intersect with irrigated farmlands and will continue southward on the valley's western side passing on the west of Redmond.

South of Redmond the track goes east toward the center of the valley and crosses State Highway 50 west of Salina. It then continues south, crossing State Highway 118 (once known as Highway 89) and the Sevier River where it continues west of the hills south of Salina.

The rail line goes south of the Salina industrial park and ends in the Lost Creek area before Interstate 70.

The purpose of the project is to serve a number of industries, primarily the coal industry. Coal mines owned by the Southern Utah Fuel Company (SUFCO) are located 30 miles east of Salina.

Because there is no rail line, SUFCO and other industries, currently move all goods by truck.

Six County members think the proposed project would reduce the number of coal trucks using portions of five highways which include I-70, SR 50, I-15, SR 28 and SR 10.

"Comments would be most helpful to us if they focused on specific environmental issues or concerns pertaining to your jurisdiction," Rutson informed commissioners.

One way the comments would be helpful is if they centered on local, regional, and national transportation systems including safety of freight operations, potential traffic delay and highway/rail crossings.

Impacts to local land use plans; land ownership; air emissions and air quality; noise impacts; historic, cultural and archaeological resources; Native American populations, land and cultures; impacts to prime, unique, and important farmland should be addressed.

Another area of comments being sought deals with biological resources, including threatened or endangered species and wildlife migration routes, water resources, including water quality and wetlands, and impacts to low-income or minority populations.

The proposed right-of-way would be 100-feet side and there would be an average of one to two trains per day.

"Most shipments would consist of coal from the SUFCO coal mines," said Howarth.

It is anticipated that smaller quantities of petroleum products, lumber products, nonmetallic minerals, wallboard and plaster would be shipped via rail.

Comments need to be made by May 2, 2003 and should be sent to Rick Black; HDR Engineering, Inc.; 3995 South 700 East, Suite 100; Salt Lake City, UT, 84107-2594; Attention: Finance Docket No. 34075&emdash;Environmental Comments.

HDR Engineering, Inc. has been hired to assist in preparing the environmental document.

Those with questions about the environmental review process should contact Phillis Johnson-Ball, SEA's Environmental Project Manager, at (202) 565-1530 or by e-mail at Johnson-ballp@stb.dot.gov.