Like many Parkites and Summit County residents, my wife and I have been commuting down the canyon every weekday for many years. After almost two decades of driving it, I can honestly say that it has never been as dangerous as it has been these past few months. The recent fatalities add horrible emphasis to problems that go back a long, long time. I am no highway engineer, but I have lived and driven in snow country my entire life, and I think there are big problems with this stretch of I-80. Some can be fixed the next time they resurface. Some may never be fixed.
The width and grading of the median (especially between Lambs Canyon and the summit) remain a huge "crossover" concern. The same problem was eliminated just a couple of years ago, further west on I-80 between I-215 and about 700 East. You may have also noticed strange contours on some of the curves in Parley’s Canyon, most notably between Emigration and the mouth of the canyon. Some (like the first turn westbound after Emigration) are too flat and sometimes difficult to steer through. This curve was made even worse this winter when the growth of the bump on the expansion joint got big enough to begin jarring loose huge ice blocks from westbound semi-trucks. That curve was covered in black ice on many days in December and earlier this month, and it wasn’t even due to the weather in our area.
Many curves in the lower canyon don’t drain water properly, leaving puddles and black ice in the worst possible places. The morning I wrecked my car on the curve in front of the gravel pit there were two other guys also smashed into the k-wall, awaiting wreckers. It was raining lightly and even though I was not speeding, or even cited for basic rule violation, my car was totaled. Since I had only liability coverage, we are out the value of the vehicle. Even so, our loss is nothing compared to what some have lost in Parley’s Canyon this year.
U.S. 40 from Heber to Daniel’s Summit and beyond has similar grades and conditions as I-80 in Parley’s. While inherently just as dangerous, U.S. 40 seems to offer SIGNIFICANTLY better traction for most vehicles. The main difference may be that it was chip-sealed with gravel after its last resurfacing. Leaving off that final step from the I-80 work last summer could be the reason for frost and ice sticking to the pavement like it’s never done before. Did the project run out of money, or time? Or did somebody forget? I-80 has been etched up and re-surfaced at least three times since we moved here, and I am pretty sure it was chip-sealed each previous time. Why not this time?
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In a letter to the editor, Park City Fire District’s Administrative Control Board shares a few words on the untimely passing of Fire Chief Paul Hewitt.