A literal tourist trap is about to appear near Kanab: US-89 just north of town will close for three hours a day, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Mondays through Fridays, for rock blasting and construction. The daily closures begin Wednesday and are expected to last through April 11.
No easy detours are available around the work occurring between a cliff and a river. So local tourism officials are arranging "traffic wranglers" to direct tourists caught by the closure to local attractions with offers of free refreshments.
"They will advertise several things to see and do around Kanab" for those caught near the town, said Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Kitchen. North of town, Moqui Cave will be open with refreshments, and tourists will also be offered directions to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
The daily closure is needed while construction crews blast rock cliffs and clear debris. It is part of a $9.8 million project to improve the road by widening shoulders, shifting road alignment, repaving and adding an acceleration lane at the port of entry.
"We’re trying to do this in the winter to help the economy of Kanab, a very tourist-central town," Kitchen said. "The traffic volume will be lower this time of year."
He added, "We figure it would be best to have a specific time for that closure on a consistent daily basis Monday through Friday so people would be able to plan their travel" even if blasting does not necessarily occur each day because of wintry conditions.
He said for those traveling toward the Wasatch Front, a long detour is available by taking Utah and Arizona state highways between Fredonia, Ariz., and Hurricane. "That usually costs people 10 to 15 extra minutes, according to locals," Kitchen said.
However, he said easy detours around the construction to points north on the US-89 corridor are not available.
More information about the project is available online at udot.utah.gov/kanab89/.
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