ST. GEORGE — Washington County officials approved measures on Tuesday for “much-needed” safety improvements to Kolob Terrace Road. They also approved a cost-sharing program that will bring a federal wildlife employee to the county to better aid with local matters by having a physical presence.
Kolob Terrace Road starts in Virgin on state Route 59 and winds its way toward Kolob Reservoir. Parts of the road are narrow and feature sharp curves with steep drop-offs that are considered a safety hazard and have claimed lives in the past.
The Washington County Commission passed an ordinance on Tuesday allowing for work on targeting parts of the roadway to move forward.
“We’re realigning the road and putting in some Jersey barriers alongside the real narrow top of the bluff up there, so we don’t have anymore accidents with people running off the road,” said Ron Whitehead, Washington County’s public works director.
“It’s a long ways down if they leave the road in a couple of those places,” he said. “This is a big improvement.”
Travel on Kolob Terrace Road has increased in recent years due to the growing popularity of Kolob Reservoir as a camping site. It has also become a site for cycling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as more people turned to outdoor recreation.
“As one who travels on that road frequently, this is a much-needed improvement, and it will increase safety,” Commissioner Dean Cox said.
Kolob Terrace Road previously underwent a project for widening sections and add other improvements from 2015-17.
In September 2015, a woman with a 2-year-old child in her car went off the road and rolled 50 feet down a steep embankment off Kolob Terrace Road. The child went through the ordeal largely unscathed while the woman was flown to St. George Regional Hospital for care after having to be cut out of her vehicle by first responders.
Another incident in July 2017 involved a fatality where a car rolled 300 feet from Kolob Terrace Road into a ravine.
“I’ve seen the aftermath of what’s happened as people have lost control and (went off the road),” Cox said. “There’s nothing to prevent people who become distracted … from losing a wheel – if one tire goes off the edge, the car is going to too.”
The county started the current round of safety improvements to the road in August 2020, when it approved the $291,000 purchase of Jersey barriers for the project. The county approved an additional $192,900 on Tuesday for a bid award to Interstate Rock for the construction of retaining walls for the barriers.
The County Commission also approved a cost sharing agreement between the county, the Washington County Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to base a Fish and Wildlife Service employee in Washington County.
Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke said it’s often the case that when private property owners and municipalities try to navigate federal bureaucracy – whether it’s a new road or a bridge – all of those applications go to the Bureau of Land Management, and then the BLM consults with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Having a Fish and Wildlife employee based down here … lets that person be on the ground and lets projects flow direct to them rather than having to meander all the way to Salt Lake City and then find its way to their desk,” he said. “We’re hoping it makes things a little bit more efficient in the process.”
Washington County will provide the new employee with an office where the Habitat Conservation Plan/Red Cliffs Desert Reserve staff are presently housed, as well as $15,000 for two years in cost-sharing for that employee. An additional $5,000 will be contributed by the water district.
In other news, the County Commission recognized Enterprise High School’s girls softball team for its win at the 2A state softball championship. The team won the May 15 champion game against Beaver High’s team 5-2.
Commissioner Dean Cox also announced his resignation from the commission, which will take effect at the end of July. Cox has served the county for over 30 years in various volunteer, part-time and full-time positions prior to his election to the commission in 2016.
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