A Highway 191 widening plan 25 years in the making could come to fruition in 2019.
Representatives from the Utah Department of Transportation met with residents at Moab City Hall on Dec. 20 for an open house and to accept formal public comments on the project, which proposes to widen the highway from 400 North to the Colorado River Bridge.
The process began in 1993 when the informal debate was whether to build a bypass to divert through traffic off Main Street or to widen the highway where it narrows to two lanes at 400 North to eliminate the bottleneck. In 2000, a formal regional study began. By 2004 the study focused on improving a stretch of the highway from 400 North to Potash Road.
By 2006 a draft environmental assessment was available for public review and some funding was released. The following year, the Federal Highway Administration issued a finding of no significant impact.
The bridge was rebuilt in 2009 and that was a major improvement for the area. In 2011, road widening north of the bridge began, but, according to UDOT, drainage problems without an apparent solution on the south side of the bridge limited work to pavement preservation and trail enhancement.
That same year UDOT continued with study after study leading into 2018, when the design process resumed and an environmental re-evaluation began which is still in progress.
The Dec. 20 gathering is the third of four open houses UDOT will hold, said Kevin Kitchen, UDOT’s public information manager.
“These events are specifically geared to public concerns over the environmental re-evaluation,” said Kitchen. That evaluation includes the long-sought-after drainage solutions and improvements on the east side of the road.
Kitchen said UDOT hopes to advertise bids in the spring and work could begin later in 2019. “We understand Moab and we’re sensitive to tourist season,” he said. “But there might be construction occurring before it ends. “The big focus is to get utilities out of the way. It’s a real challenge.”