News of the Union Pacific rail work and road closure at 1500 West Carbonville Road came as a surprise to public safety officials.
Some northeast Carbonville residents that were coming home on Monday got a shock when they pulled up to the railroad crossing at 1500 North and Carbonville Road. It was full of pulled up rails, piles of dirt and large construction equipment. There was no way to cross there so they had to go back to the other crossing at 750 North to get home.
Not a big deal, right? Only a few minutes out of their day and a little mileage on the car. Who could complain when the project to replace the railroad crossing will be done in a few days and it will be much smoother?
Well, maybe emergency services in the county could.
"I know nothing about the closure," said Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont on Monday afternoon when asked if he knew about the ripped up crossing. "I will do some checking with others in town and find out if they know about it."
On Tuesday Bedont confirmed that no one he checked with, that is, except the railroad, knew until the Sun Advocate informed him and he informed others.
"No one knew; not dispatch, not the ambulance service, not the sheriff's office, no one," he said.
The residents were not informed in any way about the closure either; no phone calls, no emails not even some door hangers like Rocky Mountain Power would leave if they were pulling your power for a couple of hours because of repairs.
More importantly, though is the fact that in the case of the Carbonville crossing the situation of a closure could me the difference between life and death.
For years many residents have complained about trains being parked across the tracks at that crossing while the unit is waiting for another train to pass on the main line. The problem of emergency services having to turn around in an emergency and head back to the other crossing costing them valuable minutes in putting out a fire or treating a heart attack victim has occurred to everyone. But in this case the scenario is even worse; the blockage is there 24 hours a day at least through Wednesday evening.
A couple of weeks ago the closing of the railroad crossing in Price for two days on Carbon Avenue was big news. For weeks ahead of time, the Utah Department of Transportation warned everyone about it. They asked that the Sun Advocate make sure the public knew about the closure. Apparently state highway departments get notified, but do counties? According to Union Pacific, Carbon County did get notified.
"Union Pacific Railroad notified Carbon County 10 days prior to the commencement of this crossing improvement project regarding our timeline, our maintenance plan and other details," stated Aaron Hunt, director of corporate relations and media in an email. "Carbon County agreed to handle all aspects of traffic control, including public notice, detour signs, closure signs, etc. We are very aware that this crossing is well traveled. That is one reason for the work we are doing, to provide motorists with a well-maintained crossing that is safe and easy to cross every day of the year."
The email further stated that their "maintenance work is now complete" and that "Carbon County is laying asphalt today to finish the approach to the crossing."
But that's not what county officials contend. Brad McCourt, the county road supervisor spoke by phone with the Sun Advocate on Wednesday afternoon and he had a much different story.
"They called me last Thursday (four days before UP started the project) and asked me if we could come out there when they were done with their part and put in asphalt," said McCourt. "I told them that all my trucks were busy and we couldn't help out on it. He didn't give me a date about when it would happen so that made scheduling even harder. He asked me if we had an asphalt plant in town and I told him we did and he said they would haul it and put it in. We agreed to pay for the asphalt. He also asked if we could send out someone to cut the asphalt in advance to keep rough edges from being a problem and he also asked for some road closed signs. I told him I would provide those and leave them at the site. Monday morning I sent someone out to do the cutting and they left the signs there as well. But I had no idea when they were were going to do the project."
When asked if they asked him to take care of notification or to handle public safety on the matter McCourt answered unequivocally "No, they didn't ask us to do any of that."
By press time Wednesday afternoon it appeared the project was almost finished so the safety question on this project will no longer linger. But there are plans to do more crossing work including possibly the crossing at 750 North and Carbonville Road.
And work at that crossing could pose the some of the same kind of problems for people in southeastern Carbonville.