Mayors from three counties affected by deadly U-6 through Spanish Fork Canyon will draft a resolution to state officials outlining what they would like done to increase safety in the canyon.
Local and state officials are calling Spanish Fork Canyon the most dangerous stretch of road in the state.U-6 is a heavily traveled truck and tourism highway. Five people have already died on the highway just this year, including two killed over the weekend.
Mayors from south Utah County, Carbon County and Emery County, meeting with state legislators and highway officials Monday, said they want regular patrols from the Utah Highway Patrol, better signs and road improvements between Spanish Fork and Price.
Another resolution urging a feasibility study on building a four-lane highway on U-6 and U-14 between Helper and Spanish Fork where accidents have taken dozens of lives in the past four years may be introduced in the general session of the Legislature, said Rep. Brad King, R-Price.
All told, 111 people have died on the highway between Spanish Fork and Price since 1993, according to King. Twenty-two were killed last year.
"These are not just names. These are people we know," King said. He then read a partial list of victims and recounted a smattering of details about their lives before they died.
State highway commissioner Hal Clyde said a four-lane highway between the two towns would cost about $250 million.
Several fatalities have occurred in the middle passing lane descending into Helper. Dubbed "angel lanes," the middle lane is intended for vehicles traveling uphill, but the same lane can legally be used by vehicles traveling downhill. Helper Mayor Mike Dalpaiz called for the angel lanes to be removed immediately.
Speed on the winding, two-lane highway is blamed for the majority of the accidents. Officials say most of the dead were innocent people struck down by traffic violators. The mayors said they believe a highway patrol presence would reduce speed and fatalities.
But UHP Lt. Ron Ostler said he has 17 troopers and three sergeants patrolling Utah County. That doesn't leave enough officers to patrol the canyon. "There's not one there unless there's an accident," he said.
Ostler said if he could hire three more officers, the canyon would get a 24-hour patrol.
He said traffic accidents have increased dramatically in Utah County over the past 18 months. Over the past year, I-15 accidents are up 25 percent, and accidents off the interstate are up more than 100 percent, he said. Most of those are in Spanish Fork Canyon.
Alan Meacham of the Utah Department of Transportation said the speed limit in the canyon, which was recently raised, is based on how fast people travel with a 65 mph maximum. Officials set the speed limit by calculating how fast 85 percent of the vehicles travel. Meacham said more than 85 percent of the vehicles in the canyon exceed the 65 mph maximum. The speed limit in the canyon varies according to the terrain.
Rep. Glenn Way, R-Spanish Fork, said he was offended by all the money spent on road construction in Salt Lake County. "Look at all the money they're dumping down I-15," he said. "They're spending an awful lot of money in Salt Lake County. They need to spend it here."