Officials mull another ‘Gateway to the Uintas’ to connect North Summit with Mirror Lake Highway
September 30, 2018
The eastern Summit County city of Kamas is known as the "Gateway to the Uintas." But, Summit County officials are considering creating a new gateway to connect North Summit to the Mirror Lake Highway.
The idea was originally proposed in the 1970s when the county retained a 66-foot wide right-of-way at the then-County Commission's urging for a road intended to connect Upper Chalk Creek with the Mirror Lake Highway and extend along the Wyoming border. The right-of-way is nearly 10 miles long. But, the road was never finished.
Summit County Councilor Chris Robinson reintroduced the idea at the Council's retreat in 2017. He said elected officials were told to come up with some new ideas that may be beneficial to the county.
"My thought was the North Slope of the Uintas is a great recreational amenity to the county," he said. "It would be a good thing for economic development for North Summit, as well as a great recreational amenity for cycling or whatever you want to do on the North Slope."
When the county obtained the right-of-way in 1975, a rough grading of the route was completed and culverts were installed. A bridge over the Bear River was also constructed near the Mirror Lake Highway in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. North Summit residents currently access the Uintas from Interstate 80 through Wyoming or a gravel route that is further north.
County staffers submitted a request for proposals to examine the feasibility of the project.
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"When I brought this up to the County Council, they thought it was worthy of further exploration," Robinson said. "It has taken us a year and a half to get to this point where we are going to do a survey to look at this."
Derrick Radke, Summit County's public works director, said eight proposals have been submitted, with the estimates ranging between $50,000 and $180,000. The firm that is selected will develop a terrain model and prepare a concept of the road's design.
"We want to survey the corridor, do preliminary design work and prepare cost estimates to see if it is a feasible project," he said. "We need to know if the grades are flat enough to build a road through there without creating mountain scars."
The county has been in contact with the three landowners that would be impacted along the route. A County Council site visit is scheduled next month.
Robinson said the survey work will determine if the route identified in the '70s is the best option. He added, "We want to be sensitive to the needs of the landowners."
"We do have the right-of-way," he said. "But, just because you can doesn't mean you should."
Robinson envisioned the new route may just be a well-maintained gravel road. He said depending on costs, the county may not be able to immediately pave it.
But, he expects it would be a welcome amenity.
"We would have another 'Gateway to the Uintas,'" he said. "We would have one to the south and this would be a gateway to the north. This would be a perfect loop."