Tom Clyde: Orange barrel blues
November 6, 2015
It’s two weeks until opening day at Park City. It’s finally cold enough they are making snow, which is always a promising start. The first "big" storm of the season was a bust. The weather forecasters were predicting 7 to 10 inches of snow over a three-day period, but when the storm got closer, they retreated. Instead there was a day of record-breaking warmth, and then a little rain. Apparently El Nino hasn’t quite got it together yet.
Maybe it’s good that it didn’t really hit us this week. There is a whole lot of unfinished stuff around. Not just the resort’s remodeling, which they claim is on schedule, and from my observations, seems to be moving along fine. There is a whole lot of construction that really ought to have been finished months ago. Mitigating growth impacts wasn’t a hot topic in the City’s election. There sort of weren’t any hot topics in the election. We seem to have surrendered to the current boom, and accepted gridlock as the new normal. But the construction projects affecting local roads seem unusually annoying and badly managed this year.
A great example is next door in the town of Hideout. If you didn’t know we have a neighboring town called Hideout, you are not alone. A developer on the east side of Jordanelle got fed up with Wasatch County’s regulations, and through some legislative shenanigans, was able to get his project and a couple of neighboring developments incorporated as a town, so he could write his own zoning. And so we have Hideout.
A new subdivision in Hideout, that climbs up the mountain east of the reservoir, spent the summer tying its entrance road into Highway 248. They got the entrance road finished, except for the last 50 feet or so to make the connection to the highway. And then they diddled around with that for week after week. The orange barrels went up, and stayed up, even though there was no work happening. Months passed, and finally they widened the highway to make a turning lane so people who live there will be able to turn on and off 248 without getting run over. It seemed to get redesigned several times. Chaos and delay like that could only happen with UDOT’s involvement.
So after the whole hot summer season had passed, and the warm fall days were history, they finally did the paving when it was cold. The result is the worst paving job ever. People driving on 248 come down the hill at 65 mph and hit the newly paved section that is an axle-breaking patch of washboard. It takes you by surprise and tosses your car around. I drove it in the dark the other night, and you can actually see the ridges in the headlights. They are 3 or 4 inches high, and getting pounded taller every day.
The orange barrels are still there, and I’m sure there will be meetings. In the meantime, the road is a dangerous mess. I can’t wait to see what happens when the washboard gets filled with ice. The only question is whether they try to fix it now, or wait until somebody hits the iced up bumps at 65 mph and gets launched into the lake.
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Closer to town, UDOT spent a pile of money installing about 50 feet of curb in the middle of SR248 by the future Target store. I think it was intended to block people leaving the movie studio from making a left turn toward town so they have to use the intersection at Round Valley. It all makes sense except that the road it blocks was a temporary construction entrance that has been torn out. So now it’s just a random obstacle in the middle of the highway. Pity the first snow plow driver to smack into it.
The City’s sidewalk project along Park Avenue, by the Park Avenue Condos, is taking forever. New construction can be complicated, but a remodel is always difficult because you never know what is buried underneath it. Still, that has been moving at a snail’s pace all year. Three guys equipped with teaspoons maybe isn’t enough. That’s had traffic messed up for months, and there is no end in sight. The orange barrels are out whether the contractor is working or not — and he’s not. Showing up is a big part of getting it done.
A lot of the disruption of a building boom is unavoidable. Cement trucks have to make their deliveries. But is it too much to ask that projects proceed with reasonable speed, that the contractors show up on a regular basis, and the work gets done right the first time so we don’t have to repeat the disruption to fix it again?
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.