Sunday, May 24, 2020

Northern Sevier Desert

For this post, we'll head back south into central Utah to discuss the highways that have served the northern part of the Sevier Desert region. Specifically, we'll talk about the state routes that have served the area of Millard County north of Delta and west of US 6.

The first state highway in the area was the road into Delta from the northeast, which was added by the state legislature in 1925. That route was extended south to Holden and numbered SR 26 in 1927, and that same year a road west from Delta through Hinckley to Nevada was added as SR 27. But no other routes served the region until 1935, when the state legislature defined SR 99:
Route 99. From Delta northerly and westerly to Sugarville.
    It can be seen on this 1953 USGS map - it's unlikely any changes would have occurred to the route between its designation and the time this map was made:

    USGS (Delta), 1953.

    SR 99 began just west of Delta at SR 27 (signed as US 6 after 1937, and also US 50 after 1952) and ran north on 1000 West. The route curved to the west on 1500 North, then turned north along 3000 West, passing through the small farming community of Sutherland. From there, it continued north to 7500 North, where 3000 West ends and SR 99 would have turned left to approach Sugarville. But where exactly in the Sugarville area did it end? The 1962 USGS map offers a clue:

    USGS (Delta), 1962.

    According to that map, the SR 99 designation appears to have ended at 4250 West.

    The area's population swelled during World War II, but not for a good reason: out of fear, the United States unfortunately mandated that all Japanese immigrants and US Citizens of Japanese ancestry be placed in "relocation centers" (read: imprisoned in concentration camps). One of these camps, called Topaz, was located northwest of Delta. Its location is marked by a blue star on the map below, with SR 99 shown as a red line for context:

    Location of the Topaz internment camp and SR 99.

    The high volume of internees at the camp made Topaz the fifth-largest city in Utah at the time. Surprisingly, as far as I am aware, the road to the site itself was never designated as a state highway. But traffic on SR 99 would likely have increased significantly during this period. The internment camps were ultimately closed in October 1945, after the war was over.

    In 1968, the state legislature designated SR 215:

    From SR-26, six miles southwest of Lynndyl in Millard County northwesterly to the Topaz Mountains in Juab County.
    SR 215.

    The new route ran from US 6 northwest to the Topaz Mountains in Juab County along a road variously known as Brush Wellman Road, Brush Beryllium Road, or Brush Highway, depending on which map you ask and what segment you're looking at. It was designated in order to serve the Brush Beryllium Company's proposed mine at Topaz Mountain. According to the resolution, once the mine was fully operational, the new highway would carry 400 tons of ore in 40 to 60 loads per day, in addition to manufacturing supplies and mining personnel.

    But in 1969, the legislature trimmed down the state highway system by decommissioning over 90 state routes, mostly in rural areas. As part of that mass deletion, the entire lengths of both SR 99 and SR 215 were removed from the state highway system.

    Yes, 215 was decommissioned the year after it was created. But 215 may have never even physically existed beyond a legislative definition to begin with - this article states that the road was built in the 1970s.

    However, the portion of old 215 east of Jones Road (about 8 miles) was re-added to the state highway system in 1985 as SR 174. This time, the highway wasn't created for a mine, but for the new Intermountain Power Plant. The plant is fascinating because it is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles - this power plant in the middle of nowhere in western Utah provides electricity for metropolitan southern California, many hundreds of miles away.

    Route Photos

    SR 174

    Photos taken May 2020.

    SR 174 begins north of Sugarville at Jones Road and the turn-off to the Intermountain Power Plant. Old SR 215 from here northwest to Topaz Mountain is now Federal Aid Route 1958.

    174 reassurance as we leave the power plant. Interestingly the road is four lanes in the vicinity of the plant.

    It's a good thing there are fences on either side of the roadway here. Otherwise we'd be swarmed by tumbleweeds.

    We'll soon cross the Union Pacific's Lynndyl Subdivision, which forms part of the main rail line from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. 

    Not far after that, we'll come to a junction with US 6.

    Turn left for Salt Lake City, right for Delta.

    SR 174 ends here.

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