8/30/2013 10:05:00 AM North Branch sand processing plant
traffic study completed, cities reviewing
by DENISE MARTIN
The traffic study related to the new sand processing plant in North Branch has been submitted and a couple of recommendations in the study have already been done. A turn lane into the Tiller Sand Plant from #30 headed south was put in at the county’s request. A left-turn lane into the site in lieu of a by-pass lane there now is also recommended. But this is tied to an increase in traffic, stated as 15 vehicles per hour for several days each month for four months or more in a year.
A left turn lane off #30, onto Cty Road 10 in Harris, is also a possible future project. The study suggests to monitor this intersection over the summer to see what is seasonal and what is sand plant related traffic. A left turn lane would provide “storage” for growing numbers of sand hauling trucks and not impede northbound cars. The study also notes trucks longer than 50 feet wouldn’t be able to safely stop at the sign, on #10, going south onto #30 because the railroad tracks are less than 50 feet from that intersection. The Tiller-funded study includes traffic counts from early this year and Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett said additional counts will be done as volumes increase.
“We will keep in contact with Tiller Corporation to keep abreast of any changes or updates in their operations,” Triplett added. The Harris and North Branch city councils have been given a copy of the study. There are sections of the roads used to supply the Tiller plant that are expected to have “premature pavement failure” due to the truck traffic. Triplett is also monitoring these areas. Mike Caron, Tiller operations, told the Press the company is hauling out of its Sunrise Township pit but not on a regular daily basis and is mostly bringing aggregate in from a site near Grantsburg, Wisconsin. There are now six to eight contract trucks making about 10 trips daily for a total of 60-70 or so loads.
This is about double what was being trucked in and out of the facility at the plant start-up in February. Caron said the plan is for about 25,000 to 30,000 tons each month in processed sand that is made into ultra- fine granules and transported for hydro-fracking applications. As for the dry weather conditions of late-- Caron said the air quality permit requirements must be met regardless of Mother Nature. A specific moisture content for the sand at the processing plant is in the permit, as a condition of operating the sand plant. Keeping sand wet eliminates “dust” and one of the permit requirements measures air opacity, Caron explained. “It’s a new process for us,” he commented, but the operation at North Branch seems to be on target for meeting supply and demand so far.