Before & After: THE DEVILS CANYON/US 191 ROAD PROJECT…2004-05…by Jim Stiles

Over the last 30 years, many sections of US 191 between Crescent Jct and the Utah/Arizona state line have undergone upgrades and reconstructions. A four mile section of highway between Monticello and Blanding, however, remained much the way it was 50 years ago, when the road was re-aligned. But politicians love highway money and they lobbied for highway funds to “improve” Devils Canyon for years. Finally, in 2002 the project gained the attention of the legislature and the governor and work, in earnest, on rebuilding the road began.
devilscanyon2002 devcan1

A year later, UDOT presented its Environmental Assessment for public scrutiny. The EA must address not just the environmental concerns, but also justify the need for the project and the expense.

While the old road was relatively narrow and winding, it had in most regards served the traveling public well. The EA tried to justify the project by showing that the road could not handle the traffic flow. But a traffic capacity survey showed that, in terms of traffic numbers, the road was adequate until the year 2025!

So the EA tried to prove that deer-related accidents in the project area necessitated the reconstruction. But all the documented accidents occurred on the rims, not in the canyon itself, where 80% of the project costs would be incurred. Despite all of this information, the road reconstruction began in October 2004 and was completed in 2005 at a cost of about $10 million.

A decade later, nobody even remembers the old road.

devilscanyon2005 devcan2-05us191-google us191-google2*Last 2 images courtesy of Google Maps.

Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.

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