Town considering railroad quiet zone; ranchers express concerns

RANCHESTER — Ranchers and agricultural workers met with members of Ranchester Town Council at their meeting Tuesday to discuss the idea of putting in a railroad quiet zone at the crossing on Five Mile Road (County Road 120A) northwest of Ranchester.

Installing a flag and other safety devices such as a median barrier or arms on each side of the track would eliminate routine horn blasts at the crossing and provide more peace and quiet for town residents who have asked if anything could be done to address the noise issue, Town Clerk Teri Laya said. Trains would be allowed to sound their horns in emergencies. The ranchers were invited to the meeting by the town council to gauge their support or disapproval of such a project. Approximately 10 area ranchers were present, Laya said.

“It’s not council’s intention to close the crossing. We’re just trying to work on a quiet zone,” Laya said. “It all came about from citizens complaining about noise and seeing if the council could address it. They thought the best thing to do would be to talk to the ranchers and see what their concerns were. It may be that it can’t happen at all. It’s just being looked at; nothing is set in stone.”

Laya said primary concerns expressed by the ranchers included fear that the crossing would be closed, worries that the crossing would not be wide enough to allow agricultural equipment to use the crossing to get into town if a barrier was placed in the median and worries that cattle and equipment would have to be moved into town on the overpass if the crossing was closed, which would be dangerous.

Council members assured the ranchers that the crossing at Five Mile Road would not be closed, reiterating what past councilors said when the crossing near Town Hall was closed, which was that if one crossing was closed, the other would remain open.

“Everybody understands the benefits of a quiet zone, but with the viaduct, as we call it, being the only other access into town from the north and east, turning that crossing into a quiet zone with a median would leave things difficult for agricultural equipment,” Town Engineer Chris Johnson said.

Johnson will continue to research the project with the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

At the meeting, councilors passed on first reading an ordinance that will allow town residents who border the Tongue River ditch to use raw water from the ditch with a permit from Town Hall.

The council also passed on third and final reading an ordinance that will annex a portion of U.S. Highway 14 into town limits. The section of highway annexed runs in front of the site for the new elementary school west of town. Annexing the highway will allow the town to control the speed limit in front of the school.

In other business, the council discussed a concern expressed by the Wyoming Rural Water Association about how exposed Ranchester’s water supply is since it is right next to the interstate. The town has discussed fencing the water tanks but worries that may not be protection enough. Public Works Director Tracy Kepley will research the possibility of an alarm system and report back to council, Laya said.

The council denied a special permit request from the developer of Stoneridge Subdivision to begin building one house while constructing the subdivision’s roads and other infrastructure. Johnson said the councilors felt it was safer to finish developing the subdivision before beginning work on residences.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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