SALT LAKE CITY — Crews from the Utah Department of Transportation began repairing drainage pipes in Little Cottonwood Canyon that were damaged by mudslides and heavy rain over the last few months, hoping to have the road ready before the new ski season begins.
During the project, state Route 210 will be a one-lane road with flaggers controlling traffic in that middle part of the canyon below Lisa Falls. The restrictions will run Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Thanksgiving. Officials said drivers should expect delays of up to 15 minutes.
“Our whole objective with this project is to get it done and get the repairs made before ski season,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason. “We see thousands of vehicles accessing this canyon every day right now, during the fall. That’s going to multiply when winter hits.”
Two months ago, a massive downpour in Little Cottonwood Canyon caused debris flows that rearranged the side of the mountain and severely damaged S.R. 210. One month later, another storm added to the problems. Now, UDOT officials said they need to finish repairs before ski season brings heavy traffic to the road.
“It was a massive storm,” Gleason said. “We’ve never seen a storm like this (in Little Cottonwood Canyon).”
After the Aug. 8 storm triggered a debris flow on the mountainside, as many as nine mudslides swept across the road, leaving mud, boulders and broken trees as deep as 12 feet strewn across the pavement.
“Rocks the size of vehicles caused divots in the road,” said Gleason. “It’s just something that our work crews who have worked up here for 30 years have never seen before.”
A massive gouge in the mountainside was left by that torrent of water as it swept downward. It snapped branches as high as 15 feet above the ground and brought down big trees like they were twigs.
“The culverts didn’t stand a chance. They were completely wiped out, overwhelmed,” Gleason said.
Several large culverts that channel the water under the road were damaged or destroyed.
UDOT crews plan to replace three of them with concrete pipes, five feet in diameter.
“They’ve been hauling off truckload after truckload in the two months since this actually happened,” Gleason said.
So far, crews have hauled off 80 large loads of debris totaling more than 2,000 tons of material — and they’re still loading. They will use that material for road fill on other projects.
It’s a big job that will cost in the neighborhood of $1 million, but Gleason said they still aren’t sure of what the final figure will be until they get a better look at everything they need to do over the next few weeks.