ST. GEORGE – The Utah Department of Transportation will spend $1.6 million to enhance state Route 18 for bicycle and pedestrian use.
Members of Southern Utah’s cycling community voiced concerns in June over UDOT’s recent work on SR-18 in which rumble strips were added to the middle and shoulder of the road. The rumble strips and other work done on the road were seen as potentially harmful to road cyclists. UDOT was ultimately approached by what would become the Washington County Bicycle Advisory Council and Cimarron Chacon, a cycling advocate working with the group, who sought to remedy the situation.
Chacon and others met with UDOT officials and discussed a particular 1.7 mile stretch of SR-18 they felt was unsafe for cyclists. She said they had asked UDOT to widen the road. A request for signage was also made, so cyclists could be warned of the trouble spot ahead of time.
“We expected this to be about a $50,000 project,” Chacon said.
At the latest meeting with UDOT, Chacon and others learned UDOT had done additional study on the trouble area on SR-18, and responded accordingly. “…We learned after further study that UDOT would be widening four miles of road,” Chacon said. “So I would say UDOT was very responsive.”
“We recognize there’s a need there,” said Kevin Kitchen, public information officer for UDOT. He said UDOT also recognizes the financial impact the road has on the local economy, as it is used for multiple sporting events throughout the year.
Chacon said the WCBAC is also conducting a similar study of the financial impact SR-18 has. She said that in 2009, the road produced an estimated $1.5 million from cycling events alone. Through 2010, SR-18 had generated over $5 million in revenue in the same category. The figures she quoted did not involve non-cycling events like the St. George Marathon.
In total, there are seven cycling events that utilize SR-18, Chacon said.
Aside from the sporting events, the road is also used for recreational cycling, jogging, and training for future sporting events.
Kitchen said improvements to the four miles of road – which is set between Diamond Valley and The Ledges – will include not simply widening the road, but creating bicycle lanes that will interconnect with cycling trials that run alongside the road.
The $1.6 million funding for the project comes from the Travel Enhancements program maintained by the Federal Highway Administration. There are 12 provisions under Travel Enhancements under which state transportation departments can apply for federal funds. UDOT applied under a provision that allowed for enhancing cyclists and pedestrian facility on the road.
Kitchen said UDOT hoped to have general design plans for the SR-18 enhancements up for contractor bidding by the end of the year.
For future projects in Southern Utah, Chacon said she hoped UDOT and the local cycling community would continue to work closely with each one another.
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