Public gets update on plans to clear slide, reopen SR-14 near Cedar City
Cedar City • Residents of the Cedar City area are eager to get State Road 14 reopened, and some are wondering why it's taking so long.
A massive landslide on Oct. 8 devoured a 2,000-foot segment of the road, which is a vital link to U.S. Highway 89 and offers access during the summer to Cedar Breaks National Monument and the resort town of Brian Head.
The Utah Department of Transportation held an open house Thursday to tell residents how the state is going to clear 400,000 cubic yards of material that slid onto the road, as well as shore up other weak points along the route.
UDOT is hoping to clear a temporary path through the slide by Memorial Day. The opening would allow traffic in both directions on Fridays through Sundays. But work won't begin before mid-March, after studies and designs are completed and contracts secured. The road won't be completely cleared and repaired until fall.
Some at Thursday's meeting were frustrated by the timeline.
The two-lane road is crucial for livestock owners, delivery services and homeowners on Cedar Mountain.
Cedar City livestock rancher Bob Clark relies on the road to transport 5,000 sheep and 500 cattle to their grazing allotments on Cedar Mountain. He said extra fuel costs to take a 100-mile detour around the slide could be devastating.
He said if the highway is not open by June 1, when he typically starts transporting his animals, "I'm done."
Previous slides had been cleared almost immediately, he said, wondering if federal bureaucracy isn't holding up the repairs.
The project is expected to cost $10 million, much of that in federal money.
The nature of this slide which is more than 100 feet deep in places and pulled mature evergreens with it that are still standing and growing on top of the slide made this much more catastrophic than rocks tumbling on the road, said UDOT spokesman Kevin Kitchen.
He said design teams must first figure out what caused the slide and then determine the safest way to remove debris and make repairs. The state has earmarked $3 million for the studies, as well as for looking into strengthening other weak points along the road, Kitchen said.
Crews will likely use material from the landslide to shore up trouble areas.
Todd O'Neill, an official with Kiewit Infrastructure Group, a national company with offices in Utah that specializes in cleaning up landslides, hopes his company will start clearing debris by mid-March.
If given the OK, he said the company will begin by removing material from the top down, which will require building a road to the summit of the slide to accommodate huge excavators and dump trucks that can haul 100 tons a trip.
It is estimated that 40,000 such dump-truck trips will be necessary to complete the project by fall.
Hart Robinson, a Cedar City resident, also was frustrated by the timeline. He complained that local labor isn't being used in the project and warned that UDOT's plan won't solve the problem.
He said SR14 runs over an unstable slope at the site of the landslide. The only permanent solution, Robinson said, would be to divert the road across the canyon to more stable ground.
"Then you'd never have to fix it again," he said.
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