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A Line Train: Truckers Claim Crossing In Aurora Is Dangerous

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- Truck drivers carrying hazardous materials are asking that changes be made to an intersection in Aurora. The intersection of Chambers and Smith Roads is on their designated route, it now also has the A Line running directly through it.

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Last Friday, a fuel tank spill caused some concern. The tank that can hold up to 10,000 gallons of fuel was left sitting on the tracks. An estimated 50 gallons of diesel spilled onto the ground.

The Colorado Motor Carriers Association says it was a small accident compared to what they are warning about.

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Mark Dorrance has been driving fuel tankers for nearly 40 years. The last three of them he has been with Dixon Bros. Inc.

"I just kept going because I just enjoyed it because it allowed me to be home every night," he said.

Mark Dorrance (credit: CBS)

Dorrance says he signed up despite the risk, "I never really even thought about it I just said that looks like something that would be fun to do."

He was 21 year old when he started driving. Now at 65, the risks are making a bigger impact.

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"I think about it happening to it the people on the train, is what I'm thinking about," Dorrance said.

He's talking about the intersection of Chambers and Smith Roads and crossing the A Line tracks.

CBS4's Karen Morfitt interviews Mark Dorrance (credit: CBS)

"Technically you would have to stop where this track is, but my trailer is on the other set of tracks," he said.

"So what do you do?," asked CBS4's Karen Morfitt during a ride along.

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"We just keep driving on over it so we are not stuck in the middle of the thing if the gates come down," he said.

On the return trip, he has another concern. They are required to stop at every track, which means his tank is left in the middle of the busy intersection.

CBS4's Karen Morfitt interviews Dean Teter (credit: CBS)

"That crossing should have never happened the way it stands today," Dean Teter,the Director of Safety for Dixon Bros. Inc., said.

With his drivers and those from other carriers, he says hundreds of tankers make that same trip everyday- and they are required to.

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"As much as some would like to say we will just go around it there are designated hazardous material routes," he said.

Regulations state they must take the quickest and safest route to and from deliveries. Teter says that is Chambers.

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In a statement, RTD says these are concerns that were raised after environmental studies and the public input period were over.

"Well since we do not live there we don't even operate in there so we weren't involved in that public comment section," Teter said.

RTD says since learning of the concerns they have offered up "feasible alternatives," options carriers say need more thought.

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For drivers like Dorrance it comes back to why he started driving to begin with, "Just drive safe and get home."

The two sides have spent several years of trying to work out a safer alternative after not being able to reach some sort of agreement with RTD. The Colorado Motor Carriers Association has asked that federal authorities step in and help find a solution.

Complete Statement from RTD:

The crossing at Chambers uses four quad gates with bells and flashers, pedestrian channelization devices, "Second Train Coming" signs for multiple trains at the crossing and other recommended warning devices. There is dynamic vehicle detection and a fixed exit gate delay to prevent trapping vehicles within the crossing. The RTD/UPRR crossing warning system and rail circuitry are interconnected with the Chambers Road traffic signals, preventing vehicles from entering the crossing when it is unsafe to do so.

The crossing design has been accepted and approved by the local jurisdiction (Aurora), the state (Colorado Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC) and the federal agencies (Federal Transit Administration, or FTA; and Federal Railroad Administration, or FRA).

RTD in 2009 completed an environmental impact study (EIS) process, which included preliminary design and several public open houses for stakeholder review and comment. The process included notifications to nearby residents and businesses of the project. The EIS document and preliminary design were published on a federal registry for public review and comment period. No concerns were raised by the Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA) or any of the individual carriers at that time.

The FTA Record of Decision and the EIS did not identify any adverse impact or mitigations needed related to the University of Colorado A Line crossings and hazardous materials transportation. Through the EIS and design/build period, Chambers Road was not classified as a designated hazardous material route.

In 2015 the CMCA expressed concerns about truck traffic across the shared RTD/Union Pacific rail corridor at Chambers Road, including concerns about trucks carrying hazardous materials. Since then, regular discussions about these issues have been held involving RTD, CMCA, Colorado State Patrol (CSP), FRA, CPUC, various departments within the city of Aurora and other interested agencies. As a result of these meetings, RTD prepared a report to identify safe and feasible alternate routes for hazardous materials transportation that meets the operational needs, regulatory criteria and state statutes for hazardous materials transport for local pickup and delivery in the project area. Alternative routes identified in this study include Airport Boulevard and Tower Road. Airport Boulevard is the preferred alternative.

We remain committed to work with all partners on alternatives.

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