U.S. 6 Evolves from Mountain Trail Into Paved Route Through Canyons
|An old section of highway on the side of Price Canyon is what remains of a road abandoned in the mid-1960s. However, a good portion of the roadway was an original part of the Midland Trail in the early part of the 20th century. |
As construction west of Tucker in Spanish Fork-Price Canyon continues, the changes to the highway in the short-term are evident.
On the north side near where the road passes over the train tracks for about five miles, the hills that have made the section so winding and narrow are being cut back to make a wider as well as straighter highway.
The road improvement project is taking place weekly from Monday through Saturday and flaggers are stopping traffic for up to 15 minutes at a time while crews work on the route.
Slowing motorists even more is a 45 mile per hour speed limit through the construction zones because of the concrete barriers in many places that have made the travel zone much narrower.
The construction is an important step in making existing conditions on U.S. Highway 6 safer. But the current effort is only one of many projects during the years that have brought the roadway to where it is.
The road called U.S. Highway 6 began as a small trailthrough the mountains. The stages of development create an interesting story, particularly the day the road opened as an early highway in 1913.
Actually, the route had been open for many years. But alternate route proponents had attempted to keep people from going the Castle Gate way.
Particularly troublesome were groups from Salina and Castle Dale, who pushed the route through Salina Canyon and called the Price Canyon route "awful and dangerous."
In early July 1913, a group of cars from the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers Association were about to travel through the area.
Carbon County residents got wind of the prestigious group coming through Colorado and formed a welcoming committee. The committee intended to meet the group in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and pitch the Price Canyon route to the travelers.
At the same time, the area organized a work party of 219 "men and big boys" to go and help with the ongoing construction that was being done on the road in the canyon.
The men and youth went up on a Saturday morning to assist with the construction and, according to a Carbon County newspaper report released at the time, "when they arrived, they worked harder and steadier than they would have worked for wages ..."
The men and youth helped finish the construction work and make the road totally passable and, based on comments from the public and private sectors, they did it because of their pride in Carbon County and the fact that they wanted to see tourists come to the area.
At the time, local residents gave Castle Gate the moniker of "The Rock of Gibraltar" for blocking the way to regular large volumes of traffic traversing the canyon.
But the story of the highway does not end at that point. The original road traveled through the canyon in a much more winding fashion than it does today. The road was also located considerable higher on the mountain sides in the canyons.
A couple of days before the tourists from Indiana were to pass through the area and had to make their decision about which way to traverse the Wasatch Plateau, officials from Carbon County gave the group a banquet in Glenwood Springs.
The "Hoosiers," as they were called, were happy to hear that the road had been opened and it was in good shape.
Officials from other localities who had interests in which way the influential bunch would travel also made pitches for the alternate routes. But the majority of the travelers chose to take the Price Canyon .
One of the things that convinced the Indiana tourists to come through Price was a kind of race between the president of the Salt Lake Trail Association and the secretary of the Automobile Club of Utah.
The trail club president came through the Price area on his way to Green River to meet the mid-westerners, while the secretary of the UCU came through Salina Canyon. The trail club representative beat the UCU secretary by almost 24 hours in arriving at the designation.
When the Indiana group reached Price Canyon, the members were escorted by a number of Price residents with automobiles.
The first vehicle to make the trip over the canyon was "a little Ford runabout" driven by Bill Broeker, one of the owners of the Gutheil-Broeker Auto Company of Price. The trip to Salt Lake took approximately three hours.
And so the Midland Trail to California had no more road blocks in it.
Castle Gate and Price Canyon had been used for years by opponents or individuals who had vested interest in other routes to keep visitors from traveling through Price.
The traffic passing through the canyon steadily increased and, in the not too distant future, the road that had been opened was no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the travelers.
Construction and changes continued on much of the trail and, when the route was brought into the federal highway system in the 1930s, some improvements were completed on the roadway.
But the road through Price Canyon proper continued to raise major traffic safety concerns.
Fatalities occurring in the canyon increased and, even though the death toll never reached the levels that many of the flatter areas of Highway 6 did, such as between Price and Wellington and Wellington and Woodside, the accidents in the mountains were often spectacular and deadly.
The sharp curves, steep grades and long drop-offs made traffic accidents deadly that may have been minor in the flat stretches of the roadway.
It wasn't until the mid-1960s that the problem was largely solved with the opening of the highway that presently runs from Helper to Colton.