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John Hollenhorst ReportingImagine what it would be like to have a big coal-truck drive past your house once every minute, on average, 24 hours a day. That's exactly what people some people in Central Utah have lived with for a long time, and now a possible change is in the works.
The proposal is for Utah's first major new railroad in decades. And how's this for efficiency? One coal train would replace 750 trucks. That would make a huge difference in downtown Salina.
Roughly 750 truckloads of coal head north each day. 750 empty trucks make the return trip. They're hauling coal from the Sufco Mine East of Salina to a loading facility on the Union Pacific railroad near Levan. On average, one big truck a minute drives past homes and businesses, including Mom's Cafe.
Most people don't seem to mind because all that noise is the sound of money.
Marie Hawkins/Mom's Café: "And you know, there's not a lot of industry around here. So the coal trucks have been very good for Salina. The noise? We don't, it don't bother us. But the vibration, we have to straighten our pictures once in awhile. But that's about it."
But officials from six counties have been studying the idea of building a 45-mile railroad line from Salina to the Union Pacific Main Line. That would substantially reduce truck hauling on city streets. It would cost something like 75 million dollars. But county officials say it offers other economic benefits.
Malcolm Nash, Sevier County Economic Development Director: "The potential is attracting other industry to our area and diversifying our economy."
Russ Cowley, Six County Assoc. of Governments: "I would guess it would have to be some kind of public-private process. The commissioners would have to look at that to see if there was a benefit to own it publicly. Or maybe it would end up being a privately owned railroad. We don't know those answers."
The idea has been under study locally for several years. Now a federal agency is doing an Environmental Impact Study.