County to conduct traffic study on Superior Silica Sands facility proposal

With the possibility alive again of a Superior Silica Sands frac sand trans-loading station coming to North Branch’s ESSBY Business Park, county officials have decided a traffic study needs to be conducted to determine the potential impacts of truck traffic related to the business.

County Engineer Joe Triplett said the county is researching three possible routes the trucks could take from Superior’s processing plant in New Auburn, Wisconsin, to North Branch.

The first route is County Highway 8 to County Highway 26 northward to County Highway 37, then to County Highway 9 and then to State Highway 95.

The second route would be County Highway 8 to Tern Avenue, a currently gravel road in Shafer Township, to County Highway 37, then to County Highway 9 and then to State Highway 95.

The third possible route would be Tern Avenue to County Highway 21, to County Highway 20 to County Highway 9, then to State Highway 95.

Triplett said North Branch is studying routes for the trucks to take once they approach the city so they’re able to avoid the Highway 95 and County Road 61 intersection, which was an area city residents raised concern about because large trucks have a tough time making the corner at that intersection without pulling into the left-turn lane.

North Branch City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad said the city is currently looking at two routes for the trucks to bypass the intersection.

The first would be Keystone or Jeffery avenues to 400th Street and then across County Road 30 to the ESSBY Business Park.

The second would be Hemingway Avenue, which would require road construction, through North Branch’s old industrial park to 400th Street, then across County Road 30 to the business park.

Konrad stressed that people who live along Hemingway would not have trucks driving by their homes — the route would stick to the business park.

“The trucks definitely would not be going down Hemingway, not by the residential area,” she said.

Right now, Konrad noted, the potential bypass routes are still in the discussion phase.

“We’re exploring all options,” she said. “An alternative route hasn’t been identified yet.”

Triplett said the traffic impact study will be determining the current condition of the roads upon which the trucks might drive, how fast they might degrade with the extra traffic, the intersection controls and increased maintenance, improvement and reconstruction costs.

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