Dark intersection worries East Carbon councilman
Before East Carbon City was the area that now encompasses the suburbs of Dragerton, Sunnyside and Columbia, it was just East Carbon. Established as a city in 1971, one of the first council's governing wishes was to see lighting placed at the junction of State Road 123 and U.S. Highway 6, where the majority of EC residents turn right every day to get to work and left every night to get home. More than 40 years later, a great many things have changed in the eastern portion of county but there still aren't any lights at the intersection.
"Personally, I have been after lighting at the junction since the 1980s at the behest of Earl Gunderson," said current East Carbon Council Member David Maggio. "We couldn't get them back then and me and Orlando [LaFontaine] really thought we had them in 2011, but there still aren't any lights at that turn."
According to Maggio, he approached the Carbon County Commission with former Mayor Orlando LaFontaine after the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) had told the East Carbon representatives that because the turn did not account for major traffic within the state they could not shoulder the burden on ongoing maintenance at the junction.
In 2011, LaFontaine and Maggio obtained a funding guarantee from the commissioners that they would pay the power and maintenance costs on the lighting, providing East Carbon obtain the light posts and have them installed either on their own or by another organization.
In the spring of 2011, UDOT informed the East Carbon Council that they had the lights and were hoping to have them installed by June.
According to Maggio, June turned into August which turned into the end of 2013, with UDOT issues with their preferred contractor at the heart of the delay.
"Earl Gunderson went to his grave trying to get lights placed at the East Carbon turnoff and by the look of things, I'm going to go to my grave with darkness where 123 meets highway 6," said Maggio.
If the council member's backhanded prediction comes true, it won't be for a lack of using every resource available to him in order to get the lights put up. Maggio has held several meetings with Utah State Senator David Hinkins about the matter, as it hit close to home recently.
"My daughter-in-law got in a head on collision at that intersection," he explained. "And then my parents nearly lost their lives there. It simply isn't a safe turn without lighting."
For their part, UDOT is caught between a rock and a hard spot. While they have purchased the lighting for the area, issues with their contractor have left them unable to erect them.
"The contractor is having a difficult time meeting their obligations and because of that UDOT is contractually bound to work through their bonding company's requirements," explained Transportation Region Four Public Information Officer Kevin Kitchen.
According to Kitchen, the contractor situation has caused significant issues for the project, to the point that UDOT is trying to re-negotiate the State Road 123/Hwy. 6 Lighting Project to do whatever possible to get the lights up as soon as they can.
Lighting at the junction has jumped to the forefront of conversation recently as many East Carbon residents report darker than usual conditions at the intersection. Additionally, industrial requirements in the area have caused UDOT to make several changes in the road leading up to the problem area.
Over the past several years, transportation officials have shortened the eastbound turning lane and westbound merge lanes making a difficult intersection treacherous, said Maggio.
"At night, you can not see that turn until you are right on top of it," he continued. "These lights need to be installed before someone is killed at that junction."
In addition to a continued postponement of the light's installation, Maggio reported that the type of lighting to be used has not been firmly decided upon at the state capitol. The East Carbon council member reports that while Senator Hinkins is telling the council that hard wired lights will be used, UDOT officials continue to report that solar powered units will be installed.