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Tuolumne Trains? Quarry Plan Concerns City
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Riverbank, Oakdale and Stanislaus County officials are up in arms about a proposal by a Tuolumne County quarry company to ship its rock by rail through Oakdale and Riverbank, a process that could block their road crossings, tie up traffic and delay emergency vehicles and school buses for long periods.

Riverbank officials estimate the Sierra Northern Railway trains making 20 round trips a week, could be two-thirds to a mile long and extend along Patterson Road, for example, from Claus Road to First Street. The quarry company is asking for a 75-year license.

The Tuolumne County Planning Commission endorsed the project in February and its Board of Supervisors plans to hold a hearing for approval on the proposed quarry on March 16 at 1:30 p.m. in Sonora.

Mayor Virginia Madueno, Vice Mayor Richard O'Brien, City Manager Rich Holmer and Community Development Director J.D. Hightower, among others, plan to join Oakdale and Stanislaus County officials at the hearing.

"We're not saying whether it's a good or bad thing but when Tuolumne County commissioners approved the idea they did not look at the impact on Oakdale or Riverbank," said Holmer. "We need to look at a number of factors. Possibly we need railroad arms added at some crossings. We don't know if there will be 30, 60 or 90 cars per train and how many times a day. We'd like to know their schedule. So fire trucks, perhaps, could take a different route. Then this will affect school buses also."

Hightower has commented that there will be noise besides traffic impacts with a train that could be a mile long and moving at about 10 mph.

Riverbank Superintendent of Schools Ken Geisick said the school district's concern is moving students about town on buses. Long, slow moving trains would disrupt north-south road traffic that already encounters delays with other train lines such as those of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company.

It appears Tuolumne County notified Stanislaus County about two years ago of the proposal but did not notify Riverbank and Oakdale.

The proposal indicates Sierra Railroad will carry the mined, crushed rock from the Cooperstown Quarry located about nine miles south of Knights Ferry to Riverbank, where it would be transferred.

A Sierra Railroad official noted the quarry will provide jobs for 30 to 40 workers and the railroad firm also will likely hire workers.

Planning consultant Bruce Baracco represents the mine operator Resource Exploration Drilling and the property owners Jack and Tricia Gardella.