|Rachel McQuillan, a Utah Department of Transportation consultant, speaks with Price residents during the public U.S. 6 information meeting last Wednesday. Officials indicate that 88 people showed up at the local open house and signed in for the event, by far the largest number to attend any of the meetings conducted last week in Moab, Spanish Fork and Price.|
The Utah Department of Transportation conducted a series of public open houses last week on U.S. Highway 6 safety.
The meetings were scheduled in Moab on March 26, in Price at College of Eastern Utah on March 27 and in Spanish Fork on March 28.
The open houses had various levels of participation by the public, with the one at CEU having the most residents in attendance.
"We hoped to get some of the recreational crowd in Moab by doing it during jeep safari week there. But only about 20 people showed up to look at the displays and make comments," indicated Myron Lee, Region 4 public involvement coordinator. "However, many of the local government officials showed up and we still had some good discussions and comments."
In Spanish Fork on Thursday, a media mixup probably kept the numbers down as only slightly more than 40 people showed up.
The Price open house had 88 people signing in at the meeting, according to Geoffrey Dupaix, the Region 3 public involvement coordinator.
Carbon County citizens crowded into the center to view the displays, talk with UDOT officials and fill out comment cards.
"Many of the people who have showed up are those who have lost loved ones on this road," stated Lee, as he mingled with the crowd at the college center on Wednesday. "Their input is very important to us."
The open house consisted of a number of viewing stations positioned around a large room with a place for people to sit and fill out comment forms for UDOT officials to review.
The stations included charts and information on a number of subjects relating to the highway.
Station one described the areas the study will address. Station two detailed the types of traffic flow and numbers of vehicles traveling on U.S. 6.
Station three was of particular interest to many of the local attendees - it contained the highway's overall crash data charts. The data at the station documented the accidents that have taken place during the last 10 years and how UDOT intends to use the information to improve the road.
The station was a doubly important area because it was the item that the department wanted specific information on. UDOT representatives asked attendees to write comments about problem areas and to stick notes on the boards and table maps about where bad situations exist.
Station three also had a side site that allowed residents to talk with Utah Highway Patrol troopers who are involved in enforcement and accident investigation on U.S. 6.
Station four documented past improvements and listed what UDOT is planning in the future for the road.
The comments taken at the open houses will be used to evaluate what improvements will be made during the next five to 10 years, according to UDOT.
The public hearing was the first step in the lengthy process of a getting more improvements on U.S. 6. Once the input from the meetings has been analyzed, a safety study will be done by engineers which will prioritize and develop options for improvement.
The final options will be presented to the public at meetings in the fall. After the hearings, environmental studies must be made on the possible improvements to see how the proposed projects will affect the ecology of the areas.
Next will come the final funding, which UDOT must seek from lawmakers at the Utah Legislature. Finally will come the design phase and actual construction.
When that fine stage comes, some improvements will be speeded up by new design-build technologies that allow a project to be underway as it is being designed. Design-build techniques probably reduced the amount of time from conception to actual completion of the Interstate 15 renovation project by half and possibly more.
As far as actual improvements, UDOT is looking at six different types of road meliorations for U.S. 6.
The first is adding additional climbing lanes for upgrades in the canyon and other areas. This type of improvement would alleviate congestion in the areas when there is heavy traffic, particularly in conjunction with slow moving vehicles.
One of the drawbacks to this type of improvement is that usually these are in areas where large cuts and fills have to be made and so they are expensive.
Another drawback can also be that when three lane roads exist, people sometimes abuse the inside lane for passing and that can cause accidents.
Tying into that same area is the use of four lane road areas compared to some of the two lane and three lanes already in existence.
Four lane improvements not only increase the amount of traffic a road can handle easily, but also generally eliminates the problem of passing against traffic. However, when the improvements are made, additional right-of-ways are often required and again cost can be a large factor because of extensive cutting and filling that must be done.
Another improvement possibility is to increase the number of passing lanes. Including the lanes in the plan can improve the traffic flow where slow vehicles may restrict traffic, and where line of sight passing is precluded by curves and hills.
But again, there are some drawbacks. First is the expense of constructing the lanes.
Many of the areas where the lanes are needed would require very large projects to cut and fill.
In addition, the length of the improvements are made more expensive in that many of the areas where the lanes are needed are restricted on line of sight.
Therefore, the lanes would have to be fairly long to avoid dangerous situations where the road narrows to two lanes once again.
Another area of interest to UDOT is using barriers in some areas to alleviate traffic problems.
Barriers are a relatively inexpensive solution to minimize head on collision problems, but sometimes require widening of the roadway and often reduce the aesthetics of the drive through an area. Some of the areas of the canyon where these might work the best are also some of the most beautiful sections.
Another area of concern, having more to do with property damage costs than loss of life or injury to human beings, is to adopt some wildlife crossing areas.
Almost all motorists who have driven through the canyon have experienced a close call with a deer and UDOT is considering putting in wildlife crossings like the one near Jordenelle Reservoir near the Summit-Wasatch County line in a couple of areas.
UDOT feels that being able to warn drivers that there may be wildlife crossing the road for the "next 1000 feet" versus "watch for deer for the next 10 miles" makes it so drivers can be more diligent
The cost of the crossings is relatively inexpensive, but the effectiveness has been debatable.
Sometimes, wild animals manage to get onto the roadway. The animals run up and down the road, unable to get off because of the fences, which can create even a bigger problem.
Signage is one of the final improvements being considered by the transportation department. Many traffic advisory signs have already been placed along U.S. 6 in the last few years and it seems to have improved the situation somewhat. Signs are inexpensive and "no passing zone" advisories could be helpful in many areas, according to UDOT.