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UDOT Planning Long-Term Repairs For Little Cottonwood Canyon Road Following Mudslides

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah – Road maintenance crews are still cleaning up huge boulders and dirt, and planning long-term repairs after mudslides buried Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, last Thursday. Those slides essentially rearranged the rocky slope above the road, creating new problems the Utah Department of Transportation has to manage.

“I’ve been up here about 22 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen it this magnitude,” said Shawn Wright, a UDOT Road maintenance assistant. Today, he was managing a crew and operating a front loader, filling up dump trucks with boulders and dirt to take out of the canyon.

Six nights ago, dozens of people up in Little Cottonwood Canyon were driving for their lives to try to get out of those mudflows. UDOT maintenance workers jumped into action to get the road open again. But, the mudslides did permanent damage, and even created a new flow of water.

“I was the first one to get up here, and it was just unbelievable,” Wright said, recalling the emergency from last Thursday.

That night, his UDOT maintenance workers got an emergency call: a torrential rain storm had triggered as many as nine mud slides that swept across Little Cottonwood Canyon Road.

“There were boulders three to five feet in diameter on the roadway… total mud,” said Wright.

The mud was as deep as 12 feet where the largest slide crossed the road, after the slides had settled.

“Thousands and thousands of tons of dirt rock, rock, trees, all sorts of debris,” he said.

They dug in and cleared the road in a couple of days.

“Six days later, we’re still cleaning up,“ said Wright.

Today, they were still hauling out truckload after truckload of dirt and rock.

“We’ve got a huge amount of material that that we’ve got to get rid of,“ Wright said.

They’ll truck it out of the canyon and use it to make road base for use on repairs here and elsewhere.

“We’re going to kind of recycle it,“ said Wright.

Another UDOT team is assessing damage to culverts and drains to figure out what needs to be rebuilt, and how much it will cost.

“It’s going to go on for probably months,” the maintenance manager said of the repairs.

Earlier this week, they examined the damage from a helicopter, and spotted something new.

“We’ve got a spring that Mother Nature has exposed,” said Wright.

They discovered it 3/4th of the way up the mountainside.

“We’ve got water coming down now,“ he said.

Before the mudslides tore the surface off of the slope, they didn’t even know that spring was there. Now, it has to flow somewhere.

“There’s water just coming out of solid rock,” said Wright.

That water is flowing down to the road where they will need to build a new culvert, where the water can flow underneath the road.

“But, until then, we’re going to have water crossing the road,” he said.

Those mudslide channels up on the slopes were all scoured out by rock and mud a week ago. There are still loose rocks up in those channels that UDOT will need to stabilize or they will have more problems with boulders on the road in the future.

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