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Author Topic: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40  (Read 4975 times)

Kniwt

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Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« on: September 23, 2020, 11:31:03 AM »

A proposed highway through the Book Cliffs area of eastern Utah has been resurrected, but there's still plenty of opposition. It would provide the first paved direct connection between I-70 and US 40 in that part of the state. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2020/09/23/grand-county-fights/

Quote
Despite decades of opposition from environmentalists, hunters and Grand County officials, a proposed highway through Utahís Book Cliffs never died.

... While the project was originally proposed for moving oil, its current version, called the Eastern Utah Regional Connection, is intended to promote travel between tourist hot spots, according to Mike McKee, executive director of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition.

... The Bureau of Land Management is now processing the coalitionís application for a 35-mile right of way from the end of the paved Seep Ridge Road at the Uintah-Grand county line to a freeway exit east of Cisco. The agency is expected to soon initiate an environmental review which will be covered by a $3.2 million appropriation from the Legislature.

The project would pave existing dirt roads through rugged and wild country beloved by big game hunters. Every mile is in Grand County, southern Utahís magnet for outdoor tourism. Earlier this month, the County Commission voted 5-2 to send a strongly worded letter to the BLM denouncing the proposal.

Project website: http://scic-utah.org/projects/eastern-utah-regional-connection

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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2020, 11:35:00 AM »

So basically an expanded UT 94 from Thompson Springs?  That would be cool as hell provided it is a two lane/scenic highway.  Getting over the Book Cliffs presently via CO 139/Douglas Pass requires a substantial detour eastward. 
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Kniwt

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2020, 11:42:59 AM »

So basically an expanded UT 94 from Thompson Springs?

This appears to be significantly east of existing UT 94 ... but, at the very least, it would almost certainly lead to gas, food, etc. being established at Exit 214, in the middle of the current 60-mile no-services zone. (That 7-Eleven at Thompson Springs is such an incongruous sight. :) )
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2020, 11:49:17 AM »

So basically an expanded UT 94 from Thompson Springs?

This appears to be significantly east of existing UT 94 ... but, at the very least, it would almost certainly lead to gas, food, etc. being established at Exit 214, in the middle of the current 60-mile no-services zone. (That 7-Eleven at Thompson Springs is such an incongruous sight. :) )

Yes, lost my bearing on where Thompson Springs was relatively to Cisco and Crescent Junction.  Well if any state is likely to push something like this through it would be Utah.  They have been usually pretty open to building new roads to enhance access to wilderness areas. 

I want to say that UDOT yard and the 7/11 in Thompson Springs are the only active businesses left out there in Thompson Springs.  Given UT 128 doesnít have any businesses since Cisco is a ghost town if someone wants to build a commercial establishment it will likely needed to be staffed with employees from Colorado. 
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Kniwt

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2020, 11:55:48 AM »

Given UT 128 doesnít have any businesses since Cisco is a ghost town 

Cisco now has Buzzards Belly General Store. It was open when I recently passed through.
https://www.instagram.com/buzzardsbellygeneralstore/

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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2020, 12:24:52 PM »

Given UT 128 doesnít have any businesses since Cisco is a ghost town 

Cisco now has Buzzards Belly General Store. It was open when I recently passed through.
https://www.instagram.com/buzzardsbellygeneralstore/



I wonder if one of the property owners is exploiting increased visitation?  Cisco has gotten a lot of attention in ghost town circles this past year given the Vanishing Point and US 50/6 connection.
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US 89

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2020, 01:34:30 PM »

As far as I'm concerned, the East Tavaputs Plateau and Book Cliffs area is the most remote part of Utah - even more so than the west deserts or southern Utah's canyon country where there is at least some tourist/recreational activity. I've driven SR 45 to its south end near Bonanza and to be honest, I don't think I've ever seen terrain quite like what I saw there. Would love to see how that transitions into the Book Cliffs and then down into the desert towards I-70.

I assume the plan would be to connect the new alignment with Seep Ridge Road? If this is ultimately built, I wonder what the chances would be of UDOT eventually taking over the whole road from I-70 up to Ouray, where SR 88 currently begins - and if that were to happen I could easily see US 191 being rerouted onto the new corridor.

Rover_0

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2020, 04:43:46 PM »

I assume the plan would be to connect the new alignment with Seep Ridge Road? If this is ultimately built, I wonder what the chances would be of UDOT eventually taking over the whole road from I-70 up to Ouray, where SR 88 currently begins - and if that were to happen I could easily see US 191 being rerouted onto the new corridor.

Thatís what I would think, but if the Book Cliffs Highway does get built, and does connect to I-70 (and US-6/50) at Exit 214, then could US-191 also be routed over most of SR-128? Would 128, where it bends to the west, be turned over to local jurisdiction instead? Or would 191 follow 70/6/50 to Crescent Junction?

What happens to what is now 191 between between Moab and I-70 if 191 is aligned up 128? Or for that matter, what about 191 between Helper and Duchesne?

Thereís a lot of questions to be answered if this road finds itself under state (UDOT) jurisdiction.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2020, 05:12:15 PM »

Iíll throw my support behind it. Utah canít get enough roads. Every road there is a treasure to drive on. Though I will say interestingly enough the stretch of I-70 between I-15 and US-191 has to have some of the least cell coverage Iíve personally witnessed. I went almost an hour with not a single bar and Iíve never seen that anywhere.
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The Ghostbuster

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2020, 09:14:57 PM »

Due to the decades of opposition to this roadway, I'm skeptical whether it will be built. Could this proposed road become one of those "highways to nowhere"?
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triplemultiplex

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2020, 12:06:42 PM »

That would be some serious new terrain highway construction not seen in decades outside of Alaska.

Aiming for exit 214 seems like a more expensive option that forces traffic from the east to backtrack.
If they want to do this, come down the Book Cliffs where the existing road (such that it is) does.  Then make it head to exit 227.
That's a lot fewer miles of new construction with minimal added distance for north-south travel and it better serves bringing those oil people "tourists" in from the east.
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US 89

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2020, 12:22:06 PM »

Another thing I just realized: the vast majority of the mileage for an I-70/US 40 connection is already done. Seep Ridge Road - the connection from the top of the Book Cliffs northward - is apparently paved from SR 88 at Ouray all the way down to the Uintah/Grand County border, where there is currently a US Oil Sands facility. Obviously the Book Cliffs part is going to be harder to build, but there is a lot of paved mileage on the East Tavaputs Plateau that I didn't know existed.

thenetwork

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2020, 06:50:56 PM »

If UDOT ever turns this project into reality, I wonder if the old US 6/50 from Exit 214/Danish Flats to UT-128 thru Cisco will be paved?  Currently, most of that road is a "decent" dirt/gravel surface.
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Kniwt

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2020, 10:22:50 AM »

If UDOT ever turns this project into reality, I wonder if the old US 6/50 from Exit 214/Danish Flats to UT-128 thru Cisco will be paved?  Currently, most of that road is a "decent" dirt/gravel surface.

It's already paved with chip-seal. Bicycled it last month with no incidents.

Another thing I just realized: the vast majority of the mileage for an I-70/US 40 connection is already done. Seep Ridge Road - the connection from the top of the Book Cliffs northward - is apparently paved from SR 88 at Ouray all the way down to the Uintah/Grand County border, where there is currently a US Oil Sands facility.

Perhaps oddly, the SR 88 portion is less suited to long-distance traffic than is Seep Ridge Road, which Uintah County built to high standard with an eye toward future growth. (And they just finished resurfacing the northernmost part, just before Ouray.) SR 88 generally has no shoulder, some very tight curves, and a steep climb out of the Green River valley. It's posted for only 60mph throughout, except for 50mph in Ouray (which isn't really anything now except for a couple dozen rundown homes; no services).

Seep Ridge Road (and, yes, this thread partially motivated me to go there and explore):

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US 89

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2020, 12:04:23 AM »

Yeah, Uintah County has really done a good job with its roads out in the oil and gas country. I was out there this past summer to clinch SR 88 and 45 (and some other highways out there), and I connected between the two on Chapeta Grove and Glen Bench Rd. These are roads that you'd probably expect to be some sort of well-maintained gravel or dirt in most of the west, but both were paved and actually of pretty good quality for the most part.

Glen Bench even had mile markers, which I don't think I've ever seen on a county road. And both of them are signed with Uintah County's special CR shields:



I also remember the steep hills and sharp curves on 88, many of which aren't really signed that well in advance. Most notable is the one north of Pelican Lake where SR 88 joins its pre-1969 alignment:



Now that you mention it, I do recall Seep Ridge being closed immediately past the Green River bridge for construction. Looks like they did a good job with it. Do you remember what the speed limit on it was? The two roads I drove on were posted 35 or 45 but were easily drivable at 10-15 mph more.

Kniwt

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2020, 10:26:02 AM »

Yeah, Uintah County has really done a good job with its roads out in the oil and gas country. I was out there this past summer to clinch SR 88 and 45 (and some other highways out there), and I connected between the two on Chapeta Grove and Glen Bench Rd. These are roads that you'd probably expect to be some sort of well-maintained gravel or dirt in most of the west, but both were paved and actually of pretty good quality for the most part.

Now that you mention it, I do recall Seep Ridge being closed immediately past the Green River bridge for construction. Looks like they did a good job with it. Do you remember what the speed limit on it was? The two roads I drove on were posted 35 or 45 but were easily drivable at 10-15 mph more.

I believe Seep Ridge was signed for 55mph once past the curves just south of Ouray.

I bicycled that same loop with Chapeta Grove and Glen Bench, this past weekend so there wouldn't be much oilfield traffic. Saw perhaps 10 vehicles the whole time on those two roads, about evenly split between big rigs and what appeared to be hunters/ATVers. Agreed that, not just there but throughout Uintah County, the county's roads are in surprisingly excellent condition (I rode another oilfield circuit around Jensen), and the county publishes an impeccably detailed GIS map showing the type of surface on every road (pavement, gravel, dirt) -- an especially valuable resource for cyclists, out in territory where Street View has never ventured. (And far more accurate than the Benchmark atlas, which shows nearly all these roads, including Seep Ridge, as gravel.)
http://co.uintah.ut.us/document_center/GIS/Transportation_System_Map1.pdf
« Last Edit: October 07, 2020, 10:28:34 AM by Kniwt »
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thenetwork

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thenetwork

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2020, 11:19:42 PM »

Given UT 128 doesnít have any businesses since Cisco is a ghost town 

Cisco now has Buzzards Belly General Store. It was open when I recently passed through.
https://www.instagram.com/buzzardsbellygeneralstore/



I wonder if one of the property owners is exploiting increased visitation?  Cisco has gotten a lot of attention in ghost town circles this past year given the Vanishing Point and US 50/6 connection.

In recent weeks, UDOT "blued out" the NO SERVICES text at the Danish Flats and UT-128 exits.  But neither they nor CDOT have altered their NEXT SERVICES xx MILES signs...yet...along the mainline edges of the service desert zone.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2020, 11:22:08 PM by thenetwork »
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The Ghostbuster

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2020, 02:33:47 PM »

I'm not surprised this project was suspended again. It will probably never be built.
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thenetwork

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2020, 06:27:11 PM »

I'm not surprised this project was suspended again. It will probably never be built.

It would be nice if U-DOT could create an alternative route to US-40 that could be an option instead of using Douglas Pass/CO-139 or Baxter Pass (CO/UT County roads) or US-191 via Price.

You would think they could make a gentler-graded, less curvy road over the Bookcliffs for a decent US-40/I-70 connection, but then again, I don't know how the terrain fares through there. CO-139 is a pain in the....on either immediate side of Douglas Pass.  Outside of that area, the road is wide and in decent shape.
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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2020, 10:27:31 AM »

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US 89

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Re: Eastern Utah Regional Connection proposed to link I-70, US 40
« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2020, 04:06:12 PM »

http://co.uintah.ut.us/document_center/GIS/Transportation_System_Map1.pdf

What's with that "State Road" east of UT-149, in Section T4S, Range R25E?

Thatís the Harpers Corner Road Scenic Drive, which appears to be an NPS maintained road as part of Dinosaur National Monument. That alternating black/white color refers to both state and federally maintained roads. (Note also that no distinction is made between 149, which ends at the monument boundary, and the NPS road that continues beyond.)

 


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