In order to ensure the safety of climbers in the area, the Utah Department of Transportation has responded to concerned citizens and reduced the speed limit of Potash Road (State Route 279) for a stretch that contains more than 200 well-known climbing routes.
The climbing destination known as Wall Street offers easily accessible outdoor rock climbing coupled with stunning views of the Colorado River, and as such is an extremely popular area often filled with climbers every day of the week. Its roadside location, however, can put climbers at risk as cars speed by at 55 mph. “The bottom line is that driving 55 mph is way too fast for a corridor where a couple of hundred people are often walking and hanging right next to the painted white line,” said Moab Cliffs and Canyons Director Brett Sutteer. The longtime Moab resident and climbing guide spearheaded the movement to reduce the speed limit in the area out of concern for the safety of climbers. “I’ve been climbing out there for 30-plus years and it has always had its near-misses with kids, dogs, inattentive belayers, etc,” he explained.
Sutteer addressed the Grand County Council about the issue, and UDOT responded. A one-mile stretch of Potash Road from mile marker 9.9 to mile marker 10.9 now has a speed limit of 40 mph, rather than the previous 55 mph. “It’s primarily due to the pedestrian congestion in that area,” explained UDOT traffic and safety engineer Robert Dowell. “They were using it and seeing people fly by so quickly.”
Many, including Moab resident Emily Lanter, support the change. “As someone who both climbs at Wall Street, and drives past it on a somewhat regular basis, I think the reduced speed limit is an excellent measure to take,” Lanter said. “Climbers, pedestrians, and bikers have only a small shoulder to work with along the road, which can pose a threat since cars and large trucks come flying through that area. People who are belaying their partners sometimes have to stand closer to the road in order to keep the climbers safe, and it would make me feel better to know that drivers are slowing down and being more conscious when passing through this heavily-used area.”
Even visitors have noticed the threat from cars so close to Wall Street. “I love climbing at Wall Street whenever I visit friends in Moab,” said Nathan Schmetter of Iowa. “The lower speed limit is definitely for the better; we’ve all had a few scary incidents in which cars have sped down Potash way too fast.”
The speed reduction has been approved and will be enforced immediately, providing a little more protection for the climbers, bikers and pedestrians who use the area for its unique and beautiful recreational opportunities. For now, Sutteer is satisfied with the change. “It was lowered to 40 mph and not the requested 35, but that is an improvement in my book,” he said.
ByBy Jacque Garcia