The Utah Department of Transportation is proposing changes in district boundaries in southern Utah.
Districts that would be affected have headquarters in Richfield, Cedar City and Price.Also, there have been several highway designation changes on U.S. 89 - Main Street in the small Sevier County town of Aurora may become part of the state highway system, and widening of U.S. 89 in Centerfield, Sanpete County, has been refused.
These and other actions are changing the face of Utah's highway system in south-central Utah.
The proposal from UDOT for revamping district boundaries came as a surprise to the Department of Transportation Commission, according to Commissioner Sam Taylor of Moab. He says a study scheduled for mid-January completion doesn't allow sufficient time for the commission to reach a decision for such a major change, believing at least a year of intensive study should be required.
Sterling Davis, UDOT District 3 engineer at Richfield, said the study has been under the direction of the engineering division, with employees working as a team.
With the completion of the interstate system, involving 30 years of design and construction, Davis and Taylor predict there will be a major switch in UDOT's maintenance responsibilities. "This means there probably will be some personnel changes, depending on what the study shows," Davis said.
Taylor said the commission hasn't been involved in the study and wants to keep boundaries and operations as they are for the present and to postpone changes for at least a year to allow a more intensive study.
Some UDOT employees may be reporting to different department heads and even to a different district headquarters office because of a lesser demand for design and construction in the three districts. Officials expect little personnel change in maintenance departments, however.
Meanwhile, the completion of I-70 has made a difference in the Sevier Valley. U.S. 89 from Salina to the Sevier Junction has received several new designations, and maintenance on part of the newly designated highway has become the responsibility of the Sevier County Commission.
Sevier Junction to Elsinore was removed from the state system, resulting in Sevier County being responsible for maintenance of more than nine miles of former U.S. 89. The county gets an annual allocation from the state, but commissioners say it isn't enough to take care of all the costs.
U-258 is a new designation between the I-70 interchange to Joseph, eastward to Monroe and north to the Richfield Junction. It begins again at the intersection of Third North and Main Street in Richfield to U-24. U-119 begins in northeast Richfield and continues east.
Aurora's Main Street has accommodated expanding traffic use since I-70 was completed. It can become part of the state's system if Sevier County and Aurora acquire an 84-foot right-of-way and install curb and gutter.
If the property is obtained, the state would pay for the curb and gutter through the main sector of Aurora but not all the way through town, according to Davis. Mayor Larry Cosby has been talking with property owners along the route to see if they would donate land necessary to meet UDOT's requirements.
One side of the road has an irrigation canal, and properties on the other side are close to the existing street. Davis said the canal would be moved if property owners donate ground on the other side of it. He noted that the state cannot accept deeded or donated property from individuals, so it would have to be deeded to the city or county and in turn deeded to the state.
If property owners refuse to donate their land, it could be purchased by the state. But Davis foresees this procedure may take years in getting money appropriated for a project. "On the other hand, if landowners will donate their lands immediately, Aurora could come onto the state system within a month or two."
In another highway matter, Centerfield's Town Council requested that U.S. 89 through the community be widened, but such a project is low or doesn't even exist on UDOT's priority list. That's because of the lack of money. Davis pledged to the council that traffic volume would be monitored.
The engineer said there is a need to widen the highway and that the quickest and easiest solution would be the three-lane concept of widening the road first and later extending it to four lanes. The two-lane highway is currently in good condition.
Centerfield officials contend that the traffic volume through their town will increase. The community is located immediately south of Gunnison. The first construction phase of a new state prison was recently completed with a capacity to house 628 inmates, and that could result in a traffic increase on U.S. 89 because of employees and people with other interests traveling to and from the prison.