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Traffic congestion continues in Moab; Arches Hotspot transportation project approved

Posted at 5:16 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 20:40:56-04

MOAB, Utah — During ‘peak’ traffic hours, drivers have experienced lengthy delays driving in and out of Moab.

Utah Department of Transportation is currently working on widening Highway 191 between the Colorado River Bridge and 400 N in Moab, which would prevent the existing ‘bottleneck’ from four lanes of travel funneled into two lanes.

“This section has had congestion for a long time, long before the project began,” said Ryan Anderson, Project Manager with UDOT Region Four. “It’s just a project that’s needed to happen for a long time.”

The UDOT widening project, which has been in the works for more than a decade, is projected to be completely by spring or early summer of 2021.

“That should help tremendously,” said Kevin Kitchen, Communications Manager with UDOT Region Four. We’ve seen volumes of maybe 120 to 180 percent of normal for October, which has really exacerbated things. We think that COVID has probably contributed to that as people outdoor recreate in some of these locations and come from other states that maybe locked up.”

The City of Moab is not only dealing with tourism but it’s own growth. Highway 191 is also one of the only thru-traffic options in the area.

“It is virtually the only corridor connecting the four corners area up to northwest parts of the state and the country so if you’re going New Mexico or Texas to say Seattle, it’s going to be your shortest route,” said Kitchen.

During Friday’s Moab City Council and Grand County Commission Joint Committee Meeting, both the city and county approved the Arches Hotspot Transportation Project Package, which focuses on transportation improvement in areas with recreation and tourism activity that currently experience significant congestion. The Arches/Moab area, along with Zion, Little Cottonwood Canyon and Bear Lake, all received hotspot funding from the Utah Legislature in 2017 based on the need for transportation expansion.

“Approval today looks like organized parking and discussion for tomorrow is consideration of how we can have more than one route to get thru town,” said Emily Niehaus, the Mayor of Moab.

The approved project package features three major concepts including a parking expansion in the downtown area, a shared-use path from Spanish Valley to Moab running more than five miles and a transit pilot program for the Greater Moab area.

“I have found myself trying to run errands downtown to certain businesses and such and not able to find parking,” said Reed Pendleton, a resident of Moab during Friday’s meeting. The parking plan would bring between 155 and 188 parking stalls to medians of existing (off-main) downtown streets.

“It seems that people are in favor of this new parking model for downtown, what is still controversial is an alternate route around Moab whether it’s a bypass or other,” said Niehaus. The city will continue looking for more options for thru-traffic and residential traffic flow in the future.

The concept package will now be sent to UDOT where they will evaluate the different projects that were approved by the committee. The projects will be then sent to the UDOT Transportation commissions which a final decision on funding to be decided by mid-December.