Crews making progress on SR-14

Last modified on Oct 17, 2013

The Spectrum- Sunday April 8, 2012

CEDAR CITY - For several weeks, crews have been working to remove dirt and boulders from a section of state Route 14 that was destroyed by a landslide in October 2011, and they are on track to allow nighttime and weekend access to the roadway beginning June 1, with full access by July 4, according to the Utah Department of Transportation.

UDOT worker Kevin Lambeth was one of the first to inspect the landslide area on the morning of Oct. 8, 2011, and said while looking at it he did not initially understand the size of the slide.

"We thought it would be cleared up in a few weeks," Lambeth said while standing on a destroyed section of the road last week.

Early estimates of fixing the road within weeks soon spread to months as aerial surveying in the late fall of 2011 showed that the landslide had moved approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of material.

As UDOT continued to survey the scene to more fully understand the geological makeup of the slide and worked to acquire right-of-way access to build the new section of road, many locals became frustrated when access through Cedar Canyon was cut off, which affected businesses in the small town of Duck Creek on the other end of the canyon.

"You worry about those small businesses out there," said Cedar City resident Becki DeMille, who said she often visited Duck Creek when SR-14 was open. "I go up there now the long way around, and it's just sad to see it nearly abandoned."

In December 2011, UDOT awarded the contract to engineer the new section of the roadway to the general contracting company Kiewit, which operates a network of offices across the United States, including one in American Fork. After around a month of design time, Kiewit came up with a design that would expedite construction of the new section of road by altering the original position of the road.

"The new location will require us to move only 400,000 cubic yards of material," said Jeremy Christensen, a UDOT team member working on the project in February. "We would have had over a million cubic yards of material if we built the road in the original location."

Even with plans in place, locals like Nancy Clark, president of the Iron County Cattleman Association, grew impatient with UDOT, saying a road closure lasting for months wouldn't be contemplated in St. George or along the Wasatch Front.

"This road closure had a large, negative impact on the livestock and tourism industry in Southern Utah," Clark stated in a February letter to the Daily News. "Wonder how long we would have to wait if Highway 80 east out of Salt Lake had been closed by a landslide?"

Kevin Kitchen, public information manager for UDOT, said much of the delay came from the nature of the slide and issues that arose in acquiring right of way.

In March, UDOT announced that limited access through the canyon on weekends would be available after June 1. After a meeting with ranchers and contractors, UDOT and Kiewit, came up with a plan to increase that access to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday and from 5 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Monday starting June 1, with full access by July 4.

Kitchen said crews have been removing material from the landslide since March 15 and have been moving approximately 7,200 cubic yards per day.

On Monday, a significant increase in labor force and machinery should increase that number to 15,000 to 20,000 cubic yards per day, Kitchen said.

"Things are really starting to move quickly," said Sam Grimshaw, field engineer for UDOT. "The size and scope of the operation and the speed (Kiewit) is working is very impressive."

Grimshaw said the process involves using a PC800 excavator with a six-foot bucket to remove the top six to nine feet of material from the landslide area while dump trucks move the material to an area where it will be used to fortify the base of the road. Meanwhile, other workers are using giant hydraulic jackhammers to break up large boulders for easy removal.

"Some of these are bigger than a two-story house," said UDOT worker Mikel Jake. Grimshaw said the landslide covered up portions of the mountain where UDOT worked to fix a previous landslide that occurred in 1991. Once the area was excavated, UDOT discovered the previous fix was still intact.

"That was good news," Grimshaw said. "It didn't undo what we did back then."

Kitchen said once traffic is allowed on the road, people will see a much wider area between the canyon wall and the road.

"That is a result of the new design that keeps us from having to move a million cubic yards of dirt," Kitchen said. "It also gives us a nice, wide buffer just in case of any future incidents along the same area."

Kitchen said workers are focusing on the first of three construction phases. The goal of the first phase is to get the road base to a point where limited traffic can be allowed, and the phase should be
completed by June 1.

The second phase will focus on finishing the road through the landslide area and working on the adjacent slopes.

Portions of this phase have already begun, as UDOT is already forming the final slopes in portions of the area and reseeding the area, Kitchen said.

The third phase of the project will focus on structural work to stabilize and repair reas near mile markers 10 and 17, Kitchen said. The phase will include the repair of a drainage tunnel built in the

1920s, he said. This work should take place when SR-14 is open, though it will require some road and lane closures, Kitchen said.

There will also be walls built to secure sections of the road near mile marker 17, an area that is at risk for landslides.
"This has been a long-standing issue," Kitchen said.

Kitchen said $10 million in federal relief funds will be used for the SR-14 project. Current estimates indicate that the project will be finished sometime in the fall.

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