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A heavy truck drives through Jacksonville with a load of gravel, one of many rigs traveling through downtown these days carrying fill to Medford’s new sports park. - Jim Craven

Tired of trucks

JACKSONVILLE — Kim Cox starts working in her garden on Pair-A-Dice Ranch Road at 6 o'clock every weekday morning to get in an hour's work while the air is still clear and the road still quiet.

By 7 o'clock, a constant stream of big diesel trucks will be hauling fill material past her house, and the parade will continue for the next 11 hours.

Knife River Materials has up to 35 rigs per day going past Cox's garden and through downtown Jacksonville. They're hauling 80,000 tons of fill from a quarry on Pair-A-Dice Ranch Road to the new sports park complex in south Medford. Other trucking companies are hauling from additional quarry sites up the road, swelling the traffic load.

Cox said that during the two years she has lived on the road, truck traffic has never been as heavy as it is now.

"I can't work out there because the diesel fumes are so awful," she said.

Ed McBee echoed Cox's estimate of truck traffic. McBee has had a barber shop at the corner of California and Oregon streets for six years, and he says the truck traffic level is unprecedented.

"Between the exhaust fumes and the sound we can't have our door open on a pleasant day," said McBee. "Customers or tourists say, 'Jeez, what's the deal with all the trucks?' "

Truck traffic will taper off in August after much of the fill has been moved, said Steve Lovs, vice president and general manager for Knife River in Medford. Each truck and trailer rig can haul 25 tons of fill, but that means 3,200 trips, or 6,400 passes, by McBee's barber shop and Cox's garden.

Knife River uses its own rigs and contracts with other haulers, too.

"We know it's kind of disruptive, especially when you have a job like this," said Lovs. "We talked to all our drivers and the companies (other drivers) work for to try to get them to slow down even below the speed limit."

A Knife River representative met with Cox and her neighbors last week at Ken Snoke's house across Pair-A-Dice Ranch Road from Cox's garden. Last Thursday Knife River installed a radar unit on a trailer that displays speeds in front of Cox's home to make their drivers more aware of the 15 mph speed limit for trucks.

"I was working from home," said Snoke. "I had to rent a small office in town. It's almost impossible to be out there."

Snoke said trucks stack up in front of his house waiting for downhill traffic to clear a tight turn. They've also hit his mailbox and run over part of his yard. Snoke said his neighbors told him they used to see about 10 trucks per day when he bought the house a year ago.

Lovs says other parking spots have been suggested to idling truckers.

"Knife River has been very cooperative. We really appreciate that. The only way of making it a little easier is to enforce the speed limit," said Cox. "The trucks have an easement and we can't do anything about that."

"It's all legal," said City Administrator Paul Wyntgergreen, referring to the hauling. "We have struck some arrangements with them to wet down the road (where it's in city limits). We monitor them for speed."

Timing of the operation bothers at least one other business owner.

"Jacksonville is a seasonal economy," said Whitman Parker, publisher of The Jacksonville Review, which has an office on California Street. "A better time for the project might have been April or May or September or October, not July and August, at the most critical economical time for this town."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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