Highway 191 needs passing lanes now
On Saturday my wife and I were returning from a yearly camping trip we take with the grand kids in the Uinta Mountains.
Having left a few days before and early in the morning we drove unencumbered up this side of the Indian Canyon summit and onto our destination. But coming back was a different story.
We left Duchesne on 191 headed south and within five miles encountered one of the crude oil hauling trucks climbing the slight incline (at that point) toward the summit. The driver was plowing along at 55 mph, just where everyone should be. I followed him for a few miles and in the meantime at least six vehicles passed us doing at least 20 mph over the speed limit. Of course as the canyon flows it get steeper and the truck in front us slowed down. I finally found a place to pass it.
Consequently we found three other trucks at various places in the canyon ahead of us. Each going slower and slower as the incline became greater. I had a loaded trailer behind me along with machines on the back of the truck and a cab loaded with people and two dogs. Our climbing rate was not much better than some of those trucks.
During that entire time I saw the near cost of impatience. Other drivers flew by the oil trucks (and me) out of frustration with our slow progress. Some passed when they had the dotted line in their favor, others did not. I saw two darn near head-on collisions.
When we reached the summit it was behind one of the trucks that was going about five miles per hour. People were still passing in that final section even though they couldn't see around the corner onto the summit. I had my camera out ready to be a newsman, because I thought for sure someone would run into someone else.
How the oil tanker drivers put up with it I don't know. They do the best they can with a heavy load, but people are discourteous and dangerous when they get impatient.
I know UDOT has some work to be done on that road planned, but when it was announced that anywhere between 60 and 100 crude oil trucks were going to be using that canyon as a route to the railroad load outs in Carbon County, don't you think the state could have fast tracked some work and build at least some passing lanes on the Duchesne side of the mountain?
I recognize the limitations of the agency. But to be honest this situation is going to blow up in the face of state government if something is not done quickly. Actually I am surprised we have not had a number of deadly headons already.
The lessons of Highway 6 should be of good use here. While it is still not the safest road, it is much better since some more passing lanes were installed and more importantly, sign age about how far it is to the next passing lane was put in a number of years ago.
The fact is if you give people some options and some information they will make better choices.
Drivers make choices based on what they know. I drive that canyon often and know each curve and bump. But for those that don't or those that get so complacent because they drive it so much, no passing lanes going up hill on the northern side of the summit is ludicrous.
We in Carbon County are thankful for the jobs the oil transport is providing us. None of this falls on the companies, drivers or anyone else but instead on a state government that cares so much about attracting business and industry and thinks about infrastructure only after the fact.
The I-15 corridor construction before the Olympics proves that state agencies can work with a huge "design-build" project.
Why can't a project so much smaller, in a dangerous canyon in eastern Utah, be put on the same kind of basis for fast track construction?
How many accidents and deaths will it take?