Catle Valley Comments
by Ron Drake
Nov 01, 2012 | 906 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last Thursday, Oct. 18, a preconstruction meeting was held at the Moab Library for all those who would be involved with the proposed Lions Park Transit Hub and Colorado River Pathway Project. In addition to the representatives of the contractor, Flatiron Constructors and the project manager, officials from law enforcement, emergency medical services, county emergency management, Bureau of Land Management, Grand County, city of Moab and the Town of Castle Valley were in attendance. Representing Castle Valley were Mayor Dave Erley, councilwoman Jazmine Duncan and fire chief Ron Drake. Their primary interest was to review the emergency procedures that will take place when state Route 128 is completely closed to traffic.

Flatiron Constructors won the bid for the nearly 6.5-million contract to build the Lions Park Transit Hub at the intersection of U.S. 191 and SR 128 and a multi-use pathway along the Colorado River adjacent to SR 128. The work includes shade structures and restrooms at the transit hub and an underpass under SR 128 connecting the transit hub with Lions Park. The project will also include a pathway extending upriver to Negro Bill Canyon with retaining walls, elevated structures, and a bridge over Negro Bill Canyon. The project was scheduled to begin last Monday, Oct. 29 and is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1, 2013.

The construction will begin with the underpass under SR128 but will result in minimal traffic disruptions because of a “shoo-fly” or detour, which will be built around the underpass area. Later in the project, the river road will be reduced to one lane during the work week, with flaggers controlling the traffic, and portable traffic lights for short sections of the road at other times, creating a maximum of a 15-minute delay. Of special interest to Castle Valley residents will be the intermittent nighttime full closures of SR 128 that will occur throughout the project. The contractor will require both lanes of the river road for their equipment when setting girders for the raised structure over the river. The closures will be between 11:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. A week’s notice will be given prior to the closures.

Grand County Emergency Management Coordinator Corky Brewer will be working with the contractor to set up communications between the Grand County Sheriff’s dispatch office and the project manager to deal with emergencies in Castle Valley and Castleton, the campgrounds along the river and other emergencies along SR 128 or in the area. The communications will probably require a radio repeater located on the cliff above the river, or possibly at Goose Island along the river.

In the event of medical or other emergencies in Castle Valley during the full closure, the sheriff’s dispatch office will contact the construction crew by radio to have the equipment moved and the road opened up to ambulances, sheriff’s deputies or fire personnel. If someone from Castle Valley needs to drive an injured person to the hospital by private vehicle during the full closure, they need to call the dispatch office by calling 911 before leaving the valley so the road can be opened up. A deputy will be waiting at the other end to escort the vehicle and injured person to the hospital and to verify that it is truly a medical emergency.

This project and the nighttime full closures could be a disruption for those working night shifts in Moab restaurants or hotels or for those living in Moab and working at the resorts along the river but the contractor will give a week’s notice via a website or signs. Signs will be placed from all directions leading to the project site from U.S. 191, Interstate 70 and Castle Valley. This column will also feature the scheduled closure times to keep valley residents informed. In the meantime, Mayor Erley suggested allowing plenty to time for our commutes to Moab and taking a book along.

* * *

This construction project on the river road isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to disrupted travel to Moab and back. Thirty years ago this week, this column ran a story and picture of a long line of vehicles waiting to get over Pace Hill because of a major construction project.

Pace Hill Road, that stretch of road between SR 128 and the turn-off to Castle Valley, used to be a lot narrower, steeper, and was full of curves. A little skiff of snow on the road made it nearly impossible to get to the top of the hill by car. The county road department even placed several barrels of sand at strategic spots along the side of the road so people could spread sand on the road to get over the top during the winter storms.

Canyonlands Contracting of Moab was awarded a contract to rebuild the road and lower the road about 10 feet at the summit. The crew found that the top of the hill was almost solid rock and required a lot of blasting to remove the material from the top. That material was used as fill farther down the road. The road was closed to traffic most of the day except for a brief period once an hour or so. One day, the kids on the school bus were loaded into pickup trucks and ferried to the top because the road was too rough for the bus. The intense blasting also caused power outages several times during the process. The road is much better now but can still present a challenge during the winter snowstorms.

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