Semitrailers hauling coal are raising safety concerns for county residents in the Hay Gulch area.
About 112 trucks come and go every day from the King II Coal Mine, 21 miles west of Durango, and many neighbors have seen drivers speeding and driving aggressively.
Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua Energy operates the mine, and the firm held a well-attended public meeting for neighbors at the Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary school.
“It’s become a land of semi-trucks,” said Jean Graham a resident who presented a study of traffic she completed independently of the company over the last six weeks.
The increase in traffic has been from the King Mine along County Road 120 to the La Plata Highway (Colorado Highway 140). Greater production at the mine and an attempt to keep the traffic isolated in one area has contributed to the problem, Graham and others said.
Graham has been tracking trucks for a month, and found a high percentage speed. Also, intermittent noise from trucks can reach unhealthy levels every few minutes, she said.
Along particularly tight curves, trucks cross the middle line and pose a safety risk, and the lack of shoulders along the roads also can cause trucks to overturn, she said.
“You can’t walk on it, you can’t ride your bike on it,” she said. Many in the room voiced agreement.
Both Graham and her husband have been run off the road recently and law enforcement did not respond, she said.
Isolating the problem by running trucks down a single route allows the company to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation on mitigating the problem, said Mike Olson, an engineer for the company. Possible solutions include installing a street light at the intersection to illuminate the area for drivers and eventually installing turn lanes. A pull out for truck drivers is also proposed for the intersection.
Graham proposed a conveyor that would transport the coal from the mine to the highway and bypass the narrow county road entirely. She argued this would be an investment for the company while maintaining the road is a money pit.
Trent Peterson, vice president for Grupo Cementos, said he would consider the suggestion. Next year, the mine is scheduled to reach record production of more than 1 million tons, and it would likely be hauled by truck. The mine produced about 900,000 tons this year.
The Plant Supervisor Wade Wymore said he receives only a few calls a year about truck drivers, and he would like neighbors to report problems to the hot line so they can be addressed.
Residents can call 385-4528 and then press 1 to report a reckless driver.