BRIAN HEAD – Temporary closures have been implemented on Route 143 in Brian Head due to sinking and collapsing of the highway. A detour has been put in place which is having little to no impact on traffic or travel times.
The highway initially started to shift during the winter season due to construction of the new man-made Bristlecone Pond.
Although the road has collapsed, there has been no apparent damage to nearby ski lifts or condos.
“There’s been no evidence of any damage to either the condos or the ski infrastructure,” Bret Howser, Brian Head town manager, said. “We have installed what are called inclinometers in both of those places so that we can monitor any movement, and so far we’ve seen no movement by the chairlift, by the skier bridge or by the condos.”
According to a press release from Brian Head Town, construction of Bristlecone Pond was originally intended to be completed in fall 2013, but it was interrupted by unanticipated geotechnical complications in September.
As construction of the pond progressed, it became apparent there was a preexisting soil issue, seen by the multiple overlays on the road from previous construction in years past.
“When we dug out the pond, basically the water drained out of that area beneath the road and it started settling and sinking, because where there used to be water now there wasn’t, and so the space collapses a little bit,” Howser said.
Geotechnical engineers analyzed the area, but they could not come to a full agreement as to what was occurring. It was suggested to let the area settle naturally and let things run their course after the winter season ended.
Highway 143 was maintained and kept open during the 2013-2014 ski season.
In late April, the town closed Highway 143 to the west of Bristlecone Pond, allowing the land to settle as had been advised.
“When the runoff hit it, it sunk fairly dramatically in a period of just two or three weeks,” Howser said.
Once the damage had occurred, geotechnical engineers returned to analyze the area.
It was concluded that a layer under the road de-watered, allowing the highway to slowly sink, Howser said. During the water runoff, a layer of fine sand deep beneath the surface became super-saturated, and the resultant pressure caused the layer to push out into the pond.
“What’s causing it is water; water is moving the soil around deep down underneath the earth,” Howser said. “So the solution is to control the flow of water through there and than we can get back in there and rebuild it and we shouldn’t have that issue anymore.”
Steps have been taken to divert spring water through designated channels in order to avoid the damaged area. A French drain will also be installed so the water does not travel through the soil.
“You create a little channel deep down in the ground with gravel and with a perforated pipe,” Howser said, “and that’s called a French drain.”
Water, sewer and gas lines were moved from the shifting ground as a preventative measure to avoid possible broken lines.
The town of Brian Head is currently working with the Utah Department of Transportation to properly rebuild the road.
“We will review some of the things their geotechnical folks submit to us and our geotechnical folks will take a look at that,” Kevin Kitchen, public information officer for UDOT region 4, said, “but basically, our only expectation at this point is that whatever rebuilding takes place is up to standards.”
The alternate route provided by the town is serving its purpose and properly functioning, Kitchen said.
So far, the town is covering the majority of the road construction costs, Howser said, because the costs have not been largely significant. If costs do become largely significant, the town will discuss the matter with UDOT.
The construction will not affect the majority of the pond. Although it is not in its final stages, the pond is currently filling up to the appropriate level and has been opened and stocked with 2,900 rainbow trout.
According to a press release, there has been some concern regarding the impact of construction and the temporary detour on Brian Head’s annual Fourth of July fireworks. The town has prepared parking and traffic plans to mitigate the impacts of construction.
A map showing parking and firework viewing areas will be prepared and widely distributed to guests.
New amenities in the pond area, such as a walking trail and picnic pads, will be available to those viewing fireworks.
The town asks that all visitors and residents be patient with the construction and observe all the parking and construction signs.
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