Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
OREM The destruction left in the wake of Wednesday's huge explosion in Spanish Fork Canyon liberally injected inconvenience into the daily routines of normal people. And that inconvenience could extend into the weekend.
Price resident Layne Miller is a children's mental health case worker who must travel to Kearns today to visit a client. That trip, usually down U.S. 6, will now be detoured.
"Because of the explosion, I'll either have to go through Huntington Canyon or up to Duchesne," Miller said. "Either way, that's an extra hour tacked onto my traveling time each way."
The circumstances remind Miller of the nearby Thistle landslide of 1983 that forced closure of portions of U.S. 6 for more than a year and meant lengthy detours for Price-area residents and others headed to the Wasatch Front.
"First you feel cut off," Miller said, "and then when you think about it you feel put out. I mean, travel time gets increased by over 50 percent."
Although the Utah Department of Transportation responded immediately to the canyon explosion, the extent of the detonation limited UDOT's immediate ability to redirect traffic that built up on both sides of the accident.
"Everyone who's been in the canyon has been rerouted away from this incident," said Brent Wilhite, a UDOT spokesman who was at the scene within a few hours of the explosion. "Passing through here is not an option."
UDOT hasn't had to deal with such a problem in a very long time, he said.
"No one around here has ever seen anything like this," he said. "It was a powerful, powerful blast.
"There's quite a bit of work that needs to be done. There's fires on the surrounding mountains; the road needs to be cleared; we need to assess the damage and check the stability of the roadside."
Wilhite also said a bomb squad must make sure there aren't any more explosives.
Because of damage to the wall north of the highway, engineers will need to be brought on-scene to assure that the side of the mountain is safe and stable, Wilhite said.
Tom Hudachko, another UDOT spokesman, said building a temporary road is likely not a feasible alternative because the damaged railway next to the affected portion of the two-lane road would likely necessitate the construction of a bridge as well.
"We're going to look at all of our options," Hudachko said. "Once the primary responders finish their jobs, we'll go in and diagnose the situation and see what we do from there. We want to make sure we do it right before we put traffic back on it."
By nightfall, UDOT crews had already begun the work of rebuilding, expected to take several days.
"Our people still aren't able to get in," Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said at 8 p.m. Wednesday. "They need to get in and assess the damage before we'll know how long it will be before we get it repaired."This is the first incident like this that I'm aware of in my 25 years with Union Pacific, where an explosion took out a rail line like this."
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