Railroad crossing annoys, worries residents of Deaver

There’s an ultimate speed bump as a driver enters Deaver from the north, but while it may slow vehicles to a crawl, it’s not a good thing for the community, according to Mayor Bill Camp.

Camp is concerned about a rough railroad crossing on the main road into Deaver off of U.S. Highway 310 to the north of the community, an issue that has vexed residents for a few years now and which the Town of Deaver seems powerless to address.

The mayor and other town officials have sought a resolution to the problem for years now, but after some initial efforts by the BNFS Railway, the appeals by the town now seem to fall on deaf ears.

“Three or four years ago, they (BNSF) came in and raised the crossing from what it was so that their rails that previously were just about flush with our road were raised up,” Camp said. “The roadmaster at that time said, ‘Yeah, we’ll be back, and we’ll taper our road to the height of their new rails. Before they left, they put gravel up there so it wasn’t an abrupt lip, but nothing happened for a while.”

Camp saw a railroad crew doing some work at the tracks about two years ago and asked for the roadmaster. He was told there was a new one, Brandon Comstock, who remains in that position.

The mayor contacted the roadmaster, who eventually got back to him and told him the railroad was going to “finish that, touch it up, make it right.”

“Nothing has happened, and since that time, within the past year, it looks like they raised it again, working on the crossing and replacing some of their components between the rails, and one of the workers there said, in effect, they have to raise the rails, and when they left, they hadn’t tapered the approach at all.”

Camp said the railroad moved in some rock bedding material, but after a few days it had begun to wash out and was not smooth at all.

“To my thinking they would use asphalt or concrete to taper our existing road up to their crossing components,” the mayor continued.

Nothing changed for several months, and when the Amtrack passenger train derailed in northern Montana on September 25, Deaver residents began to worry about the safety of the track passing through Deaver, Camp said.

“Several people in the community have expressed some concern lately in light of the Amtrack derailment in northern Montana,” he said. “Maybe they don’t know what the NTSB found the cause was, but they are concerned that, if we get a derailment here in town with some of these tanker cars coming through carrying we don’t know what kind of chemicals, what kind of threat is it to us? That’s what brought it up lately.”

The Amtrack derailment occurred on a curve, which led to residents wondering what could happen in Deaver, Camp said.

“There is a curve (in the track) coming in from the north, and frankly, they’re concerned that, if they can’t take care of the crossing that’s been in a state of disrepair for several years, what else is being neglected?” he said. “This is where we live. We’d just like ‘em to fix it like it was. That’s all we want.”

Camp has tried calling the local roadmaster and also called the regional office in Denver but has not received a call back. The Deaver town attorney has also written “several” letters, Camp said, one after a resident got his vehicle high-centered at the crossing, but there hasn’t been any response to those letters, either.

“We’re at a dead end,” Camp said, noting that, while there have been “a couple of promises,” phone calls haven’t been returned “at least updating me what’s going on.”

“People are talking about it, saying, ‘When are they going to come out?’ And apparently for people to say, ‘If they’re neglecting this… People are crossing that thing every day. We have school buses and fire trucks that have to use that. It’s the main access to our town, not the only one, but the main one.

“People have remarked, ‘I’d defy you to find a worse crossing.’ We go over crossings all the time, out in the county, all over, and it’s nothing like this. If you want an example of a bad crossing, this would be it.”

Camp said town officials haven’t tried to exert any political pressure on the railroad and have just expected the work to be done.

“I guess maybe we’ve been naïve,” he said. “They said they’re going to come out and do it. OK, I believe you, and I’m just checking up on you.

“Not only do the trains use it, it’s one of their accesses onto the track. We see their truck getting on and off of it right there. There’s a siding where they store some of their equipment. I know they’re familiar with it.”

The Chronicle reached out to roadmaster Comstock Tuesday but did not receive a response by press time Wednesday.