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Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 8: US 6 in Utah (US 89 to Price; Utah County, Wasatch County, Carbon County)

Go to: Part 7 | Main US 6 page | Part 9

In this part we leave the southern Wasatch Front, which we first entered in Part 6, and cross the Wasatch Range into southeastern Utah.

A substantial segment of this Part and most of the next are spent co-routed with US 191 (and of course historically US 50). U.S. Highway 191, much like US 395, has become a major through-route in its own right despite ostensibly being "merely" a spur. In fact, the modern US 191 includes virtually none of the highway as originally designed in 1926: originally US 191 ran from Idaho Falls to US 20 in Montana; today it doesn't even enter Idaho. At one time it even connected to its parent US 91 (Part 7) in Idaho Falls and Brigham City; now it enters neither, despite US 91's modern stub still existing in the latter.

The reason for US 191's total rerouting was, again, Interstate 15. By 1981, after I-15 was mostly built (which we traveled in Part 7 as well), US 191 was a small connector from West Yellowstone to Malta, MT. Utah and Wyoming got AASHTO to approve a new tourist route to link the National Parks, originally along an extension of US 163 north from Monument Valley, but instead along a new US 191 when Arizona signed on. This 1981 extension used mostly existing highways, with some new sections built to link them, including old US 187 in Wyoming plus several state routes and the northern segment of US 163 in Utah. This second incarnation connected to Interstate 40 in Sanders, AZ, and is what we will travel here and in Part 9.

US 191 was also the impetus for the decommissioning of the infamous US 666, the worst-numbered highway in American road history ("could it be ... Satan?"), originally quite logically designated as US 66's sixth spur sixth sheep's sick in 1926 from Gallup, NM to then-US 450 in Cortez. In 1942 it was extended west along US 66 and south to the Mexican border at US 80 in Douglas, AZ, then subsequently north in 1970 along an old routing of US 160 to what was then still US 163 in Monticello, UT. The route's unfortunate number and safety problems earned it the unofficial name of the "Devil's Highway" and a notorious reputation that grew over the decades. In 1992, Arizona complained that the signs were frequently stolen and asserted a numbering change was needed since US 66 hadn't existed since 1985; the Arizona segment was renumbered as an extension of US 191. The other states considered the change and came up with their own plans, encouraged by Navajo Nation leaders who believed the number and its safety record were hampering tourism. New Mexico proposed (the preposterous, since it's nowhere near US 93) US 393, which AASHTO countered with US 491 due to the US 191 connection in Monticello; no one objected and US 666 was officially decommissioned in the remaining states in 2003, by which point virtually all the remaining US 666 shields had been stolen by thieves and souvenir hunters. A nice picture of an old one in Arizona survives in the "American Psychos" segment in Natural Born Killers. Observed one sardonic Monticello resident in the Salt Lake Tribune, "We'll really miss all the potheads stopping and taking pictures of the Route 666 sign."

After the 1992 lengthening US 191 was also extended north in 1996 from Malta, MT to the Canadian border. Unlike its greatly diminished parent, US 191 remains a border-to-border route today, again broken up only by Yellowstone (like US 20). Today it stretches 1,624 miles.

Distance signage leaving the eastern US 89 separation (see the previous part).
Continuing through the Spanish Fork Canyon, with the river beside us.
EB US 6.
Evidence of yet another recent slide to the left as the railroad tracks snake along with us to the right. (See Thistle in Part 7.)
Advice best taken.
A steep decline between valleys.
Mile 197.
Continuing our descent.
Mile 205 for one final climb.
Crossing Soldier Summit, US 6's highest point on the Wasatch Range (7,477').
Soldier Summit refers both to the pass and the former ghost town, though a rest area and some services moved back in after the town was disincorporated in 1984. Although Frs Velez y Dominguez discovered it on their 1776 expedition, it was well known to the Utes in antiquity, and became infamous when Union deserters on their way to join the Confederate forces hit a blizzard over the summit in 1861. Several died, giving their lives and the name to the region.

The town was, like Thistle and many others, originally a service stop for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW); helper engines were stored there, moved up from their namesake Helper in the early 1920s. As the diesel locomotive reduced maintenance requirements and the need for power assist, the town withered; future improvements that reduced the grade made it entirely superfluous. Soldier Summit's last gasp was as a notorious speed trap in the 1980s that was eventually busted by the state attorney general. Today some ruins, plus the modern service area, are all that remain.

Wasatch county line.

Wasatch County, UT

We won't be here long before dipping back into Utah county, but here it is for completeness. It also takes its name from the Range (see Part 6), with its county seat in Heber City. Its population is 23,530 [2010].

Along the meadows of the Wasatch Plateau.
Utah county line (again).
Utah County, UT (Second Entry)

See Part 6 for the first entry.

Mile 215.
Junction U-96, with Scenic Byway signage for the Eccles Canyon Scenic Byway, part of the 83-mile The Energy Loop of UT 31/UT 96/UT 264 designated in 1990 for the highways servicing the local hydroelectric plants.
Distance signage leaving the UT 96 junction.
Crossing the Price River and entering the Price Canyon.
The Price River will parallel us, more or less, almost all the way to the Interstate 70 junction. Its origin in the Plateau becomes the Canyon on its 137-mile course before joining the Green River to the south (Part 9). Its headwaters are threatened by upstream damming projects which imperil its historically limited discharge, and is listed as one of the United States' top ten endangered rivers. The name comes from Mormon bishop and settler William Price, who explored the region in 1869. We'll reach Price itself, named for the River, at the end of this Part.
Carbon county line, leaving Utah county finally.
Carbon County, UT

Named for the Mac OS X API coal deposits, Carbon county's natural resources also include substantial reserves of natural gas. The county is an interesting political contrast with Utah county; it is probably Utah's most Democratic county, voting for Bill Clinton both times he ran, though it selected George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and McCain won over Obama in 2008. Its county seat and largest city is Price, which we reach in this part. Its population is 21,403 [2010].

Notice the terraced blasting scars along this route of US 6 as we descend from the Wasatch Plateau.
Mile 227.
A sedimentary sheer wall of rock overlooks the highway. This sandstone/shale formation is of similar geology to the San Rafael Swell to the south, which we skirt slightly in Part 9.
The Price River and some of Carbon county's namesake industry, with the arresting artificial gorge US 6 sits on to the right.
Advance signage for the US 191 junction and the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway in the ghost town of Colton.
Named for railroad official William F. Colton, the town was originally Pleasant Valley Junction as established in 1883 to serve the railroad and the nearby Scofield mines. Like Soldier Summit, the diesel locomotive put an end to its railroad service days. Only a few buildings and the general store, still in business, survive nearby.

The Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway is a 512-mile loop route between Colorado and Utah, federally designated out of the Utah Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway and the Colorado Dinosaur Diamond Scenic and Historic Byway in 2002. Notable attractions include Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, the Natural Bridges National Monument and the Colorado National Monument. Composed of US 191, US 40, CO 64, CO 139, I-70 and UT 128, we will travel major portions of it well into Colorado even though at this point in time it was largely unsigned along this routing in Utah.

Junction. This is old UT 33, which was added to US 191 in the 1981 rerouting.

US 6/US 191

Although US 6 is still signed "eastbound," from here to I-70 we will be traveling almost totally due south.

EB US 6/SB US 191.
Mile 230. This remains continuous with US 6 because US 6 was here first.
Entering Helper as we exit the Price Canyon.
Helper, named the "Hub of Carbon County" (though in modern times Price would probably actually have that role), takes its name from the helper engine used to propel older steam locomotives up steep grades. The D&RGW stored a number of them in the town, moving them to other maintenance depots as needed.

Originally, Helper was intended to act as a freight terminal, and was built specifically for that purpose in the early 1880s as the railroad arrived. In 1887 the first employee residences were built, in 1889 the railroad began to convert the old narrow-gauge lines, and by 1892 it officially marked the division point between the eastern (Grand Junction, CO) and western (Ogden) terminals. It was able to survive the advent of the diesel locomotive because of its regional importance and its other major industry, the coal mines; a large immigrant influx made it a social neutral ground and a point of refuge, important when the mines were on strike and a major contributor to local economic mobility. Around the turn of the 20th century, some sixteen nationalities were represented, with many of their descendents still in the region today. The modern city was incorporated in 1907 and has a population of 2,189 [2012].

Entering town and the turn-off to West Helper.
US 6 has been somewhat realigned in town, only some of which we will travel (here is an old alignment serving as a frontage road to the west of the existing highway; the beautiful Book Cliffs are in the background, which will run more or less with us all the way to Colorado). Old US 6/50 went through Helper on Main Street, which is now Business Route 6, and was UT 244 until 2013. Business US 6 and UT 244 crossed the Price River twice, rejoining the mainline at the south end of town, but old US 6 continued along Main Street from there into Spring Glen, intersecting the then-terminus of UT 157, and then along Main Street to rejoin the modern mainline there.
In 1959, US 6/50 was moved off Main Street to the controlled-access alignment it occupies now, UT 244 was designated over the Main Street portion in Helper proper and UT 157 was extended to meet it along the southern extent of Main Street in Spring Glen. In 1969, Utah moved UT 139 from its old alignment to Consumers to soak up the southern segment. The Spring Glen routing nearly completely parallels the modern expressway by less than a couple thousand feet, so other than modern BR 6 in Helper we will not travel it here. When Utah decommissioned UT 244 it gave its entire routing to UT 157, but that was not the case when these photos were shot in 2006. So, let's begin.

Fork 1: Business US 6 in Helper (Former U-244)

This is a signed business route today, though not well from US 6 itself. It is a National Historic District.

Turnoff to Main St and the northern terminus of BR US 6/191/former UT 244, crossing the Price River which is to the east of us here.
The historic Helper City Library, originally built as the civic auditorium in 1936, and their famous Coal Black Muffler Man, nicknamed "Big John." Erected in the mid 1960s, he was placed in the memory of those who gave their lives in the local coal mines.
Historic downtown Helper and the State Liquor Agency, which has got to be a really cramped office.
Advance signage for the continuation of old US 6 along U-157, and, in 2006, its northern terminus. BR 6/191 continues, unsigned, along with old UT 244 to the right on Poplar St.
However, looking at the intersection of Main and Poplar from EB Poplar St, we finally see a Business shield assembly. This was the only Business banner on the route at the time, in fact. Notice that UT 244 wasn't signed anywhere even then, and the Business route only proceeds north.
Crossing back over the River to the mainline. This is the end of BR 6/191.

Fork 2: Modern US 6/US 191

This is the modern expressway mainline.

Mile 233.
EB US 6/SB US 191. Poplar St wasn't even signed from the expressway.
"JCT U-139/U-157" which is, in fact, the south end of UT 139 coming from Spring Glen, merging our forks.

Between Helper and Price old US 6/50 traveled on the old Carbonville Rd alignment through Carbonville. This road was not marked and was actually closed for construction when I was passing through; however, I mention it for reference. The highway was most likely realigned in 1975 when UT 55 was placed over the old segments in Price which are now also BR 6/191 (see below).

Advance signage for the BR 6 loop in Price as we briefly upgrade to full freeway.
BR 6, separating from the US 6 freeway (with a control "city" of I-70) at Mile/Exit 240. Notice US 191 isn't signed anywhere here: when the freeway was built, this wasn't US 191 yet. Let's split up again.

Fork 1: Business US 6 in Price (U-55)

UT 55 was first designated in 1975 over the old alignment of US 6 (and originally US 6/50).

Crossing under the US 6/191 freeway with trailblazer signage for UT 55.
Entering Price proper.
Named, as mentioned, for the Price River and the county seat of Carbon county, it has a population of 8,715 [2010].

Carbonville Rd joins us here from the left and we enter town as East 100 North.

Junction U-10, which leaves town along the Castle Valley to serve the most active coal producing region in the State, terminating at US 50/I-70 near Fremont Junction. Originally UT 10 went all the way to Salina; that alignment is now part of the Interstate.
Mile 1.
BR 6/191/UT 55 takes two quick turns along North 300 East to leave town as E Main St, with advance signage for Green River (in the next Part). At least one source hints that US 6/50 ran on W Main Street one block south, but I don't have any period maps to say when or even if this was ever the case.
East edge of town.
Curving down to meet the freeway, with a curious local variant spelling of Maverick.
Junction US 6/US 191. This is the end of BR 6/191/UT 55.
Another little county route shield sits at the interchange.

Fork 2: Modern US 6/US 191

This is the modern (brief) freeway mainline.

Exit 241 to U-10.
Southern end of UT 55 at Exit 243.
Merging our forks as we leave Price.
Continue to Part 9
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