Rail traffic volume up, mostly coal

The Jefferson County Supervisors met Monday to discuss an abatement of property taxes for a property with the county assessor and to hear updates from Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the county engineer.

They also spoke with residents about the county?s roadwork priorities and problems.

The supervisors spoke with county assessor Steve Wemmie about a county property where taxes hadn?t been paid in 16 years. The tax bill of $3794 has been building up since 2002. The issue was tabled pending discussion with the county treasurer who was unavailable for this meeting.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Road Master Steve Pumphrey gave an update to the board about railroad work in the county. Work was recently completed to reduce noise at the Fourth Street crossing.

While Fairfield sees 45-50 trains per day, volume is up and projected to pass 2006 totals during the second week of August. Over 220,000 train cars are expected to pass through Fairfield in 2018.

?The railroad through Fairfield has become largely a coal line with coal coming directly out of the Thunder Mine in Gillette, Wyoming, to Chicago. With grain coming out of the Dakotas and other lines at capacity, the line through Fairfield is seeing more use,? said Pumphrey.

County resident Greg Titus joined the supervisors to praise the county on its work on certain roads, but asked why other work wasn?t being done. Titus is a cycling enthusiast and sees the much of the county from his bike.

?I want to compliment the county on the work you guys do on the lower-volume county roads, but ask why some high-traffic roads like Germanville Rd., Pleasant Plain Rd. and Brookville Rd. Why is the county spending money to repave and nicely maintain low-traffic roads, when the high-traffic roads are getting all busted up with only occasional patching,? Titus asked.

Supervisor Lee Dimmitt responded by explaining some of the funding issues that surrounds the challenge of maintaining high-traffic county roads.

?All of the money that was expended to work on the low-traffic roads that you just mentioned, would not do any of the high-traffic roads, none of them because of the cost. For example, Pleasant Plain Rd. out to Cambridge was a three-inch asphalt overlay and was a million and a half dollars to do that road,? said Dimmitt.

Dimmitt went on to highlight the three high-traffic roads, Germanville, Brookville and Pleasant Plain have a combined total cost of between six and seven million dollars. That money has to either come through bonding or through a combination of state and federal funding. We either have to borrow, or wait until those state and federal funds become available.

Rhonda Robinson addressed the board about having the stop signs removed from the north-south sides of an intersection near her house at Nutmeg and 200th Street due to a perceived traffic danger. Robinson feels that drivers run the stop sign constantly

?We hear the screeching wheels and people do not stop. They run it all the time. A lot of times they?re using the dust when the corn is right up on all of the corners to predict what?s coming, or they flip their lights on and off at night to see if they can see oncoming traffic just so they don?t have to stop,? said Robinson.

The board decided to table the request for the stop signs to be removed and instead put lights on the stop signs for better visibility. The intersection has been the sight of several automobile accidents including one fatality which may have inspired the original decision to put up the stop signs on all four sides of the intersection.