Xcel Energy received county approval Tuesday to haul up to 1.8 million tons of coal per year on Routt County Road 27, but it may not use the permit.
The permit to haul coal on C.R. 27 is just one of several options the company is considering to provide competitively priced coal to the Hayden Station power plant. The company also is considering several railroad and rail/truck delivery options.
Before approving the special use permit, the Routt County Board of Commissioners heard opposition from C.R. 27 residents and bicyclists who use the road.
C.R. 27 resident Laurie Hallenbeck said she was concerned about the safety of drivers, school bus riders and livestock that crosses the road, as well as noise from the trucks. She said trucks that use the road are loud enough to make her husband wear earplugs to bed.
And she said the traffic on the road drives too fast.
"It's a county road, not an interstate," Hallenbeck said. "We're tired of people zooming by. People are driving 65 to 70 mph, and it's not just the coal trucks. It's everybody. We're concerned someone is going to get hurt."
Hayden Station Director Frank Roitsch said there is no incentive for drivers to drive fast; the drivers are paid by the hour.
Addressing the noise concern, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said he would "not compromise safety for audio comfort."
Bicycle enthusiast and C.R. 27 resident Stuart Handloff said that bicyclists revere C.R. 27 as a road biking destination, and he would not want to lose the road to hundreds of coal trucks. He said several bicycling tours were considering coming to Steamboat Springs to use the road.
"I see lots of costs and not a lot of benefits," Monger said. "Show me some figures, and we'll look at it a little closer."
Bill Fox, of Fox-Higgins Transportation Group in Boulder, said a traffic study on the road indicated about 700 vehicles per day travel the north end of C.R. 27 now, but the added trucks and vehicles from planned developments along the road could mean up to 2,000 vehicles on that portion of the road. Still, he said that would not create congestion.
And, as a condition of the special use permit, Xcel is required to pay for any necessary road upgrades associated with increased truck traffic from the coal hauling.
Xcel ultimately will choose the coal-hauling method that is best for the life of the power plant, Roitsch said. The savings from finding competitive prices and implementing the most feasible coal-hauling method will be passed on to the plant's electric customers, Roitsch said.