Roadside memorials must follow strict rules
For a number of years a private memorial stood behind the fence across Highway 6 from the gas station in Colton. While other private memorials to people who died along that road were usually quickly removed by UDOT crews soon after they were put in, this one stood for a long time. It was behind the fence and appeared to be on private property.
However, a couple of years ago when the road was expanded to four lanes and work was done along that entire stretch of road, the memorial disappeared. That was because it was within the right-of-way. In the last seven years new regulations have been in place that have prevented citizens from placing memorials on roadsides themselves.
Drive down many highways in other parts of the country and one can see makeshift memorials, and other times what are meant-to-be very permanent memorials proclaiming the death of one or more persons in that spot. In some states markers of certain kinds are sanctioned by the state highway departments.
While each marker tells a story, authorities in many states believe that story is being told in the wrong place and in the wrong way. Some highway officials across the country claim the markers create hazards. Although no official national data seem available to back up the claims, they maintain that the markers actually can become hazardous and create accident situations, the very thing most people who erect monuments are trying to prevent.
However, supporters of the memorials point out that the markers not only help the families and friends of victims remember, but also serve as a reminder of the dangers of certain places on any highway and what can happen when people make bad decisions or don't pay attention to what they are doing.
Obviously it is hard to tell what affect such edifices have on the psyche of drivers, but in some states they are banned altogether. In others, the roads governing bodies have come up with ways to erect memorials to those who have lost their lives in a uniform way. And that is what has happened in Utah. In 2005 the Utah Department of Transportation instituted rules that gives families a way to memorialize loved ones along Utah's highways.
The policy applies to all the highways under jurisdiction of UDOT and does not apply to city or county roads, many of which have their own rules. UDOT, under written agreement with the parties involved in wishing to place a memorial, will allow certain kinds of remembrances for only those that died in fatal crashes. Any agreement entered into must also be written with both UDOT and the family involved in signing it.
If the agreement pertains to a multiple family crash, all parties must sign on. At the time the regulations came into being it also set a limit of not more than five years in retrospect for memorials to be placed. In other words, today for example, no one can place a memorial for someone who died in a crash in 2003.
The options are fairly unobtrusive to motorists and UDOT employees. Memorials can be placed in three different ways.
â¢ An Adopt-a-Highway program. In this scenario those wanting the memorial must adhere to current laws. The standard Adopt-a-Highway signs must be used and they are then supplemented with plaque from the Memorial Safety Sign Guide. No private memorials are allowed and will be removed and disposed of. The regulations also state that the program is not meant to be a "free speech forum."
â¢ A memorial safety sign program. In this scenario a plaque can be placed on safety signs not less than one mile apart. UDOT does pay for the plaque and placement but also reserves the right to restrict the plaques to areas where they will not interfere with other signs or priorities. The plaque can stay in place for one year (if there are no other requests for a plaque in that area) at which time the family must renew the plaque through a written process to UDOT. Families must choose only approved signs from the Memorial Safety Sign Guide.
â¢ A memorial wildflower seed program. Seeds that produce naturally occurring wildflowers in the area can be planted as a reminder. The types of seeds will be determined by UDOT.
In Southeastern Utah three sign memorials have been placed since the program was instituted. One is on Highway 128 or what local residents in Moab call "the river road." That road parallels the Colorado River as it heads from Moab toward Cisco.
Another is near the Lila Canyon exit off of Highway 6 between the Horse Canyon pull off and Woodside.
The final one is just south of the Carbon-Emery County line near the weigh station. It memorializes Glenn Silva, a Carbon County resident who died in a motorcycle crash there a couple of years ago.