Thursday, December 3, 2020

SR 132: the US Highway that Wasn't

For this post we'll continue the southward progression from the last few posts into Juab and Sanpete Counties. Both counties have a handful of state highways, but there's really only one significant east-west route connecting them - SR 132 (28 is more N/S). This post will discuss the history of that corridor.

To most travelers today, Nephi is just another decent sized town on I-15 heading south from the Wasatch Front. But historically, it was more important as a road junction. Originally, it was where one would turn off to get to Manti, Richfield, and pretty much everywhere else in the Sanpete and Sevier Valleys. The road east from Nephi is still a good route to parts of the central Sanpete Valley today, but it has lost some of the significance it once had - it has been partially replaced now by routes such as US 89, SR 28, and US 50. Those either didn't exist back then or were in pretty rough shape.

At any rate, the road heading east and south from Nephi was added to the state system in 1910, part of the first batch of state highways to be created. This was part of a longer corridor that continued south through the Sanpete and Sevier Valleys, all the way down to Kanab. When the Utah legislature first codified highways in 1919, this corridor was defined in section D of the state highway law. And in the early 1920s, when the State Road Commission assigned numbers to the most important state highways, the entire Arizona-Kanab-Richfield-Manti-Nephi corridor became SR 11. Unfortunately, we only have the southwestern Utah portion of this 1923 map, but this shows that the route numbering had occurred by then:

USRC, 1923.

The US Highway system was approved in November 1926. One of the designations created was US 89, which came up into Utah from Arizona and largely followed SR 11...but not completely. US 89 departed SR 11 at a place known as Pigeon Hollow Junction (this is today equivalent to the 89/132 intersection) and ran northeast along SR 32 through Mount Pleasant and Fairview to US 50 (now US 6) at Thistle, then northwest to US 91 at Spanish Fork.

It seems Utah was a bit annoyed by this decision about US 89; they wanted it to follow the route of SR 11, terminating at US 91 in Nephi. And this was probably a valid opinion - in 1928, most of US 89 from Pigeon Hollow to Spanish Fork had was unimproved or improved earth. In contrast, SR 11 was improved to a gravel surface up to Nephi, and US 91 north to Spanish Fork was fully paved. So from a road quality perspective, 11 was still the superior route.

USRC, 1928.

It was probably for that reason that in 1928, Utah nearly asked AASHO (the organization responsible for the U.S. Highway system) to move US 89 to SR 11 to Nephi, with the existing US 89 to Thistle being renumbered US 89E. But somewhere along the line, that idea was dropped, and they instead requested adding the Nephi-Pigeon Hollow road as a new US number. Utah stated in its application that they'd be okay with numbering it either US 189 or US 291, on suggestion from the Bureau of Public Roads. AASHO approved this request in August 1928 as US 189, and it was posted and added to maps soon after:

Rand McNally, 1931.

It appears the earliest alignments of SR 11 and US 189 may have gotten from Moroni to Chester using what is now Race Track Road and a now-abandoned alignment along the Canal Ditch. In addition, the original highway heading south from Fountain Green probably used 400 South and 100 East, before the State Street curve immediately past 400 South was built. However, there are no detail maps I'm aware of to confirm either hypothesis, as in both cases the modern alignments existed by 1940 as shown on that year's census maps. Although the Fountain Green old alignment consistently shows up on USGS maps as late as the 1980s, historic aerial imagery does confirm the State Street curve existed in 1947, so that USGS alignment can be dismissed as erroneous. Other old alignments existed at Pigeon Hollow Junction and north of Fountain Green; these are better documented because they were abandoned later and are discussed further below.

Now, we'll turn our attention to the roads west of Nephi. In 1933, the state legislature designated SR 132 and SR 148:

(132) From Nephi westerly to connect with route 26 near Jericho.

(148) From Leamington westerly to junction with route 126[sic].

    SR 132 would have begun in Nephi at US 91 (now SR 28), at the very same intersection where US 189 also ended. It initially went west as the modern SR 132 does, but instead of heading southwest to Leamington and Lynndyl, it went northwest along a road now known as Federal Aid Route 1812 to Jericho Junction, where it ended at SR 26 (now US 6). SR 148 was located just a bit south of there, running from SR 26 at Lynndyl eastward to Leamington. Although 148 was not explicitly labeled, both new routes can be seen on the Utah State Road Commission's map from 1933:

    USRC/Gousha, 1933.

    That did not last long though. Two years later, SR 148 was extended northeast through Leamington Canyon to a junction with SR 132:

    USRC/Gousha, 1935.

    In the late 1930s, after a long dispute between Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming that will be detailed in a future post, US 89 was extended northward beyond Spanish Fork and a new US 189 was created further north. The original US 189 from Nephi to Pigeon Hollow was decommissioned, but there is no known documentation of exactly when or how it went away - or even why the new 189 further north wasn't renumbered to 289. The old US 189 appears on the 1939 Rand McNally Nevada-Utah map (but that map also shows the modern US 189 at the same time). The 1940 map, on the other hand, showed it as SR 189:

    Rand McNally (Nevada-Utah), 1940.

    That is weird to me because it was never legislated as such; the road remained SR 11 under state law. In fact, SR 189 had just been designated a few years prior as the state roads serving Snow College, which is rather close by in Ephraim. It seems a little difficult to believe SR 189 was ever a signed route, but this map shows the same thing happening with ex-US 530 in northern Utah between Kimball Junction and Wanship. A decorative map from the time also shows the road as SR 189. If this was in fact signed as SR 189, it would be one of very few instances in Utah where a state route number was signed on a highway it was not legislated on.

    At any rate, the original US 189 was probably a good US designation to eliminate. Any additional importance it had as a major through route in the past was probably gone by this time, since both US 89 and SR 28 had been fully paved by then. At this point it was just another road across the mountains connecting US 91 and US 89. As for SR 189, if it was ever a signed route number, it seems to have been a temporary thing - all mentions of anything-189 were gone by 1950, when it was shown as simply SR 11:

    Shell/Gousha (Utah), 1950.

    That map also shows a change made to the two highways west of Nephi a few years before. In 1945, the routes of SR 132 and 148 were switched such that it was 132 that continued down to Leamington, while 148 became the branch to Jericho.

    It should be noted that the earliest alignments of these highways did not necessarily match what exists today. The earliest alignment of SR 148 junctioned SR 132 about two miles west of the modern SR 132/FA 1812 intersection, and SR 132 also had a few alignments that differ from the modern FA 1812:

    Original SR 132 is shown in blue, SR 148 in red. (Background map: ESRI)

    Based on this information and some old maps, the 1945 switch of 132 and 148 probably came about after the straighter alignment to the southeast had been constructed. This resulted in a continuous paved road from Lynndyl to Nephi, while the Jericho branch was still just graded. That and the fact that Lynndyl-Nephi was probably a more traveled corridor than Jericho-Nephi were likely the reasons for the switch.

    As that map also shows, the road to Jericho also got a couple realignments in this area - one for a straighter route through the mountains, and another for a better 3-way intersection with SR 132. These realignments happened sometime in the early 1960s, and historic aerial imagery shows them complete by 1965. The old alignments still appear as "Old Jericho Road" on many maps.

    Realignments weren't confined to west of Nephi, either: they happened on SR 11/US 189 as well. Notably, the original Pigeon Hollow Junction had a rather different configuration:

    US Census, 1940.

    That was how US 189 ended for its entire ~10-year existence. The setup was almost certainly a holdover from when SR 11 was the main through route in this area. Original US 89 went northeast from here along what is now known as Pigeon Hollow Road, directly entering Spring City from the south, and it also went south from here to Ephraim along today's Pioneer Cemetery Road. But in 1959, a new alignment for US 89 was built between Ephraim and Mount Pleasant along the east side of the railroad tracks, including a bypass of Spring City. This necessitated a realignment of Pigeon Hollow Junction. It can be seen on this 1966 map, and the roadways have not changed since then:

    USGS (Chester), 1966.

    1969 brought about the last set of major changes for these routes. Statewide, that year was notable as the year when nearly 100 minor state routes were decommissioned. One of those was SR 148 - so just a few years after it was straightened out near the 132 junction, it was removed from the state system. Even so, it is still maintained by Juab County as Federal-Aid Route 1812, and it is notable as one of the very few paved non-state roads in the area.

    Also that year, due to interstate system construction, SR 11 as a legislative designation was truncated significantly to avoid an overlap on the I-70 corridor. After 1969, SR 11 was only as a legislative designation for US 89 and 89A from the Arizona line to Sevier. The remainder of what had been 11 was split up into multiple state routes. Since the vast majority of 11 was simply legislative underlay for US 89, signage on the ground was largely not affected...except for the independent section from Pigeon Hollow to Nephi. Since SR 132 ended at the same intersection as SR 11 in Nephi, it made sense to extend 132 east to Pigeon Hollow Junction, and that is exactly what happened.

    UDOT, 2017.

    That wasn't quite the end, though - we still have one more realignment to discuss. In 1971 a new, more direct alignment was built between Fountain Green and the Juab/Sanpete county line, slightly west of the existing road.

    UDOT, 1971.

    Nothing else has changed since. Of interest, the eastward extension of SR 132 over old SR 11 has actually made it the third longest 3-digit state highway in Utah. The vast majority of significant medium to long-distance corridors were given 2-digit state numbers early on in the history of Utah's state highway system, leaving 3-digit numbers for the shorter connectors that were added later.

    Route Photos

    SR 132

    Photos west of SR 28 were taken May 2020, the ones from SR 28 to 116 were taken March 2020, and those east of SR 116 are from August 2019.

    Initial reassurance as we head east from US 6 at Lynndyl.

    4 miles to Leamington, 33 to Nephi.

    We'll cross the Sevier River, but more interesting is the railroad crossing just to the left.

    Entering Leamington.

    Leamington is home to this abandoned Phillips 66 gas station.

    On the eastern outskirts of town, we'll come to a junction with SR 125.

    Stay straight for 132 to Nephi, turn right for 125 to Oak City.

    SR 125 begins to the right. The two signs should be switched, but whatever

    SR 132 reassurance after the 125 junction.

    26 miles to Nephi.

    132 has Pioneer Charcoal Burning Pits. I guess some people are interested in this sort of thing, but I am not one of them.

    Luckily, if you are not interested in the charcoal pits, it's still a cool drive.

    We'll crest a small hill and enter Juab County.

    Juab County is in a different UDOT maintenance region, so we'll get a reassurance shield here.

    Another hill, this time with a "Hill Blocks View" sign. Blind hills are common enough in rolling terrain that these signs are relatively rare, but the cement plant generates enough truck traffic to warrant some extra caution.

    There's even a CementBridge™ over the highway!

    A meta-warning sign...

    ...followed by the actual warning sign for the upcoming railroad crossing.

    We'll cross the Sevier River one final time before we climb out of its basin and enter Great Salt Lake drainage.

    Reassurance shield as we climb through the foothills of the Gilson Mountains.

    Turn left for the former SR 148 towards Eureka and Little Sahara. Stay straight for current 132 to Nephi.

    13 more miles to Nephi.

    Old 148 is a big enough junction that we get a new reassurance shield.

    We'll descend from Furner Pass into Dog Valley, with the 11928-foot Mount Nebo rising in the background. Interestingly, although Furner Pass is the high point on 132 west of Nephi, it is not the drainage divide as Dog Valley still drains to the Sevier. 

    After a slightly lower pass in the West Hills, we descend into Great Salt Lake drainage (via Currant Creek, Utah Lake, and the Jordan River). 

    In Nephi, we'll come to a junction with SR 28.

    Stay straight for 132 to Moroni. Turn left on 28 for Provo and a local hospital, right for 28 to Levan.

    SR 28 is old US 91, and US 189 began straight ahead in the 1930s.

    14 miles to Fountain Green, 41 to Snow College.

    SR 132 for some reason gets a state scenic byway shield here, even though it is not one

    Anywhere on the US 91 corridor has to be close to I-15, and sure enough we'll hit it on the east side of town.

    Turn right for I-15 south to Cedar City, St George, and Las Vegas; stay straight to make a left for 15 north to Provo and Salt Lake City.

    Reassurance after crossing I-15.

    As we head up Salt Creek Canyon, we'll pass a turnoff for the Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway.

    We'll cross into Sanpete County, cross back into Sevier River drainage (via the San Pitch River) and enter the Sanpete Valley.

    The upcoming town is apparently a Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area.

    That town is soon identified as Fountain Green.

    Turn right on 400 South in Fountain Green for Maple Canyon and Wales. That was SR 117 before 1969, but it is now a county road.

    Moroni is 7 miles away, Mt Pleasant 14. The latter is not on 132 but is likely a common destination for people on this road.

    Reassurance after leaving Fountain Green.

    Another Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area...

    ...which should surprise nobody, considering the city is named Moroni.

    A right turn here would take you on old SR 116 towards Freedom and Maple Canyon. Like SR 117 further north, this connection was removed from the state system in 1969.

    Instead of turning right, we'll veer left from 325 West onto Main Street, where we get this reassurance shield. 

    Apparently Moroni is worthy of a four-lane Main Street.

    After passing through downtown, we'll come to a junction with modern 116. 116 may or may not have been concurrent with 11 through Moroni.

    Turn right here to stay on SR 132 towards Ephraim, Manti, and Snow College. SR 116 continues the road eastward from here to Mount Pleasant.

    SR 132 reassurance after making the turn.

    From here it's 12 miles to Ephraim, 18 miles to Manti, and 69 to Richfield. Richfield is probably not a destination for a lot of people on this road now, but it is likely here for historical reasons since this was formerly part of SR 11, which did make it that far.

    A few more miles and we'll enter Chester.

    Chester isn't really anything more than a couple houses and trees around the junction with SR 117.

    Stay straight for 132 to Ephraim (via US 89). Turn right for SR 117 to Wales, left for 117 to Spring City - which apparently is a historic district.

    Since 132 is the bigger road here, traffic on it does not have to stop.

    SR 132 reassurance after the junction.

    In a few more miles we reach Pigeon Hollow Junction.

    Turn right for US 89 to Manti. Ephraim and Snow College are that way too, but those aren't signed for some reason.

    After a 63-mile journey, SR 132 will end here at US 89.

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