Crews work to reopen Utah highway closed by slide

Published: Sunday, April 8 2012 3:29 p.m. MDT

This pictures show the damage from a landslide that covered state Route 14 east of Cedar City, discovered on Oct. 8, 2011. It is estimated that between 2 and 3 million cubic yards of material came down.

Utah Geological Survey

Enlarge photo»

CEDAR CITY, Utah — A scenic state highway in southern Utah closed by a massive landslide in October is scheduled to reopen to the public with limited access June 1 and full access by July 4, state transportation officials said.

Crews have worked in recent weeks to remove dirt, rock and debris from state Route 14, about eight miles east of Cedar City, The Spectrum of St. George reports.

Some 1.5 million cubic yards of material slid down a steep ravine Oct. 8, destroying nearly a quarter mile of the highway.

A relocation of the highway by contracting company Kiewit will require crews to remove only about 400,000 cubic yards of debris, Utah Department of Transportation officials said.

The highway is used by residents and tourists to get to grazing land for cattle and Bryce Canyon National Park. While the road is used mostly by residents, it is also used by truckers and tourists because it's the most direct route from Cedar City to U.S. 89, which leads to the national park.

Ranchers and others have complained that the road closure has had a major negative effect on the livestock and tourism industries in southern Utah.

UDOT spokesman Kevin Kitchen said crews have been removing about 7,200 cubic yards of debris per day since March 15. On Monday, a significant increase in workers and machinery should increase that amount to 15,000 to 20,000 cubic yards per day, he said.

"Things are really starting to move quickly," Sam Grimshaw, field engineer for UDOT, told The Spectrum.

Last month, UDOT announced that limited public access to the closed section of road would be available on weekends after June 1. After a meeting with ranchers, UDOT announced a plan to increase that access to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday and from 5 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Monday starting June 1, with full access by July 4.

Kitchen said $10 million in federal relief funds will be used for the project.

A similar landslide occurred in the area in 1991.

Information from: The Spectrum, http://www.thespectrum.com

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