Rockslide damages road, railroad tracks
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Nov 08, 2012 | 4236 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
45 rockslide
A section of railroad track on SR 279 near the Intrepid Potash plant is twisted and destroyed after boulders and debris from a large rockslide that hit the tracks and the highway early Monday morning. Photo by Zane Taylor
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A rockslide on state Route 279 about 20 miles west of Moab on Monday closed one lane of the road for seven hours and caused an undetermined amount of damage to the railroad tracks. The rockslide also interrupted product shipments for a nearby industrial plant.

No one was injured in the rockslide, which apparently happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, officials said.

Mike Randall of the Utah Department of Transportation said a large boulder hit the pavement and gouged a 6-foot-deep trench that was about 20 feet wide. The boulder bounced off the road before coming to rest on the road shoulder.

That large rock was followed by smaller debris – some of it measuring 6-feet by 8-feet by 8-feet – that covered the original hole created by the boulder, according to Randall.

“There was some very large stuff coming down,” he said.

The cause of the rockslide has not been determined.

A four-person UDOT crew had both lanes of SR 279 open by 4 p.m. on Monday. Randall said crew members applied cold-mix asphalt, which will serve as a temporary fix until permanent repairs can be made in the spring.

However, the nearby Intrepid Potash mine is still feeling the effects. About 100 yards of railroad track on Intrepid’s property was damaged or destroyed, which will prevent train shipments on Sunday, Nov. 11, and possibly the following Sunday, said Rick York, general manager of the company’s Utah division.

Rocks also landed on two railroad switches, badly damaging one of them, he said. York did not know Tuesday how much it will cost to repair the switches and track.

“We’ve had mudslides before, but never a rock fall like this,” York said. “This was a biggie.”

Intrepid Potash ships its commercial potash fertilizer product by rail on Sundays and uses trucks for other shipments. York said shipping is split about 50-50 between the two methods.

The slide did not curtail plant operations on Monday, he said.

Randall of UDOT was philosophical about the damage.

“There are rockslides in this area,” he said. “That’s part of the beauty of living here.”

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