Law enforcement, others prepare for Big Boy, anniversary crowds

Officials say emphasis will be on maintaining traffic flow, not writing tickets
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A westbound Union Pacific train prepares to pass under U.S. Route 287 near Hanna, Wyo., in September 2018. Officials are recommending that photographers pursuing UP Big Boy No. 4014 plan to take their photos from locations off limited-access highways where stopping along the roadside is prohibited.
TRAINS: David Lassen

OGDEN, Utah — What can you expect as Union Pacific’s Big Boy begins its trip from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Ogden, and the nation celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike?

No one knows for sure — but heavy traffic and a significant law-enforcement presence are likely.

That’s the consensus of event planners, asked how many visitors will attend Golden Spike sesquicentennial observances that formally begin Saturday with a christening ceremony in Cheyenne for restored Big Boy steam locomotive No. 4014.

As No. 4014 prepares to travel west, Highway Patrol and state Department of Transportation officials in Utah and Wyoming are polishing final traffic management and visitor safety plans.

Downtown Ogden and the nearby Golden Spike National Historical Park are key locations for upcoming ceremonies and festivals. Particularly heavy traffic is expected Friday, May 10, when a bevy of federal, state and local officials converge on Promontory for the day-long Golden Spike Celebration.

Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Vic Saunders reports that Utah State Troopers, Box Elder county sheriffs’ deputies, and DOT motorist assistance trucks will be on duty for three days along the roadways leading to Golden Spike Drive and the GSNHP.  Admission to the Golden Spike National Historical Park on May 10 – 12 is restricted to vehicles with parking passes. Passes for May 10 sold out long ago, and pass supplies are limited for Saturday and Sunday.

“Ogden is making preparations for an estimated 200,000 people who will attend the city’s three-day Heritage Festival,” Sara Oliver, VisitOgden President, says. The festival will focus on Ogden Union Station — where No. 4014 and 4-8-4 No. 844 will be on display next Thursday, Friday and Saturday — and on 25th Street, a district of restaurants and upscale shopping.

Roughly 450 miles of Interstate, U.S. and state highways, and county roads paralleling UP’s Cheyenne-Ogden mainline that will get special attention from both the Utah and Wyoming highway patrols. Officials for both agencies say maintaining motorist safety and traffic flow will take precedence over writing citations.

In Wyoming, off-duty state troopers will be working when UP’s double-headed steam locomotives are operating.  Train chasers who stop on bridges and on limited-access highways will be asked to move along to safer and legal observation points. “For everyone’s safety, please park in designated areas in communities the trains will be passing through,” say Sgt. Jeremy Beck and Lt. Tim Romig, Wyoming Highway Patrol spokesmen.

One Wyoming location to get special law enforcement attention is U.S. Route 287 and its bridge leading south out of Laramie. “We have a pedestrian sidewalk but there’s not enough room for cars to park on the structure … or any structure for that matter,” saiys Cliff Spoonemore, a spokesman for Wyoming DOT.

On Interstate 84 in Utah, a popular turn-around on the north end of Weber Canyon will be closed. “The (turn-around’s) capacity is very limited and the hazards created when vehicles try to accelerate from a dead stop into 70 mph traffic require closing this pull-off,” UDOT’s Saunders says.

Both agencies strongly suggest planning to photograph along state and county roads, and away from limited access interstate highways where laws prohibit stopping. “On an interstate, a passing steam locomotive does not meet the legal definition of an emergency,” one longtime state trooper noted.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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