Sunday, June 20, 2021

Alpine Highway and the Utah State Developmental Center

In my last post, I discussed the history of SR 71. Part of that included a separate section in Utah County that never connected to the rest of 71, and was split off as another route early on. This post will detail the history of that route.

To briefly recap the early history in the last post, the initial 1931 definition of SR 71 read as follows:

(71) From junction with route 4 at Ninth East in Salt Lake, southerly to Draper south easterly via corner canyon and Alpine to junction with route 1 American Fork.

No road was ever built through Corner Canyon, but the road from American Fork to Alpine did exist - as the Alpine Highway. It was realized early on that this road would likely never connect to 71 in Salt Lake County, and so this Alpine Highway was split off in 1935 as SR 74:

Route 74. From American Fork to Alpine.

"American Fork" in this case referred more specifically to the intersection of Main Street (US 50/91, now US 89) and 100 East ... which is where the south end of 74 is still located today. From that intersection, 74 ran north as it does today - but the Alpine Highway did not yet exist in its current form. After only a few blocks, 74 jogged east along 300 North to 200 East, where it turned north again. The highway exited American Fork along this road, which then curved slightly to the northeast and became the Alpine Highway. After traversing the northeastern Utah Valley highlands for a few miles, it entered Alpine as that town's Main Street.

The exact north end in Alpine was never explicitly defined by state law, but the 1953 USGS map of the area appears to have placed it at 200 North. That lasted into the modern era of better mapping, so I would assume that this intersection marked the north end of 74 ever since it was first split off from 71 in 1935.

USGS (Lehi), 1953.

At the same time, the legislature designated SR 185, connecting SR 74 to the Utah State Training School (now known as the Utah State Developmental Center):

Route 185. From route 74 near American Fork to the State Training School.

That was routed along 700 North in American Fork. The exact location of the eastern terminus is not certain because the parking lot configuration has changed over time. It does appear the entrance to the Training School from 700 North was located at roughly the same place it is now, and the route may have gone up the entrance road itself from 700 North. However, given the state's tendency to "estimate" important locations in the early legislative descriptions, the original east end of SR 185 could well have been at its intersection with 900 East.

At any rate, that east end only lasted 6 years. In 1941, 185 was extended further along 700 North and 2600 North (same road, different cities) to Canyon Road/100 East (SR 146) in Pleasant Grove. Here it is on the 1958 state inset map of the Wasatch Front:

USRC/Rand McNally (Central Utah), 1958.

In the 1950s, SR 74 was moved to its modern alignment north out of American Fork, connecting 100 East directly to the Alpine Highway. Based on historic maps and aerial imagery, this new alignment was completed sometime between 1953 and 1958. The change appeared on the 1962 USGS topo, which also does a good job showing the original alignment of 74 north out of American Fork as well as SR 185:

USGS (Lehi), 1962.

Notice 700 North did not (and still does not) directly connect to 100 East. So what happened to the west end of 185? The map above suggests it was extended north along what had been SR 74, all the way up to where it tied in with the new 74 alignment. Personally, I highly doubt that was actually the case, given no other map I've come across ever indicated this. Seems more likely to me that it would have jogged south for a bit on 200 East, turning west again at 600 North and ending at SR 74/100 East.

Another possibility is that it received a more substantial reroute slightly east of American Fork, using 300 North and Caveman Blvd/600 East to connect between SR 74 and 700 North. This is hinted at by a couple 1:250,000 USGS maps of the area from the 1960s, but the scale of these maps is so big that it's impossible to tell for sure. Or perhaps it was never changed to connect to the new 74 at all, despite no change in the legislative description indicating such?

Whatever 185 did, it did not last through the 1960s. The vast majority of the route was caught up in the Great Decommission™ of 1969, when all but "0.250 miles" of the route was deleted from the state highway system. That quarter-mile was a short segment of road that connected 700 North to the loop around the Training School. The 1969 legislature set numbers greater than 280 aside for routes that served state parks and institutions. Since at this point that was the only role of this quarter-mile segment of road, it was renumbered to SR 296.

The state had clearly maintained this road as a spur of 185 for some time, possibly ever since the beginning in 1935, but it was never explicitly indicated in the legislative description - suggesting the description may not necessarily be as reliable of a resource as one might hope! In fact, the vagueness in this legal description led the State Road Commission to sign a resolution the next year clarifying exactly which roads were included with SR 296. Essentially, it included a loop around the developmental center and a connection to 700 North.

USRC, 1970.

In a clockwise direction, using today's street names, that would have begun at 700 North and followed 860 East, 800 East, 980 North, 820 East, 1000 North, 980 North, 800 East, and 870 East, returning back to 860 East near the 700 North entrance. 

Aside from a minor reword in 1994, the description has not been updated since. However, a quick look at the map reveals that several portions of that route aren't even drivable anymore, and there are other sections of 296 today that didn't even exist then. In particular, the campus and its road system were expanded significantly north during the 1970s and 1980s. The current configuration uses the outermost peripheral road possible, and the only entrance is via 860 East. On the UDOT map below, everything in yellow represents current 296, while red lines represent roads (or former locations of them) that are no longer part of 296. (The green line is SR 129, which we'll cover in a later post.)

UDOT, 2021.

Thankfully, for non-institutional routes like 74, tracking alignment changes is much more straightforward. SR 74 had maintained exactly the same endpoints since it had been separated way back in 1935 ... until 2003. In September of that year, the Utah Transportation Commission officially authorized a transfer of the northernmost section of the route to the city of Alpine. The new north end of 74 was set at "200 feet south of the intersection with Canyon Crest Road". This map was attached to the Transportation Commission resolution authorizing this transfer, with red indicating the portion of 74 being removed:

UDOT, 2003.

It may seem odd that the new north end of 74 wasn't placed directly at Canyon Crest Road... until you look at a map of what's there now. Alpine has now constructed a roundabout at the intersection of Main and Canyon Crest, so they needed a little bit more of 74 than usual in order to build that without extra coordination with UDOT.


Route Photos

All photos taken June 2020.

SR 74

SR 74 begins heading north on 100 East in American Fork.

Reassurance shield just ahead... but good luck finding it behind all those trees.

At 100 North, we'll cross a rail line that isn't used that much anymore

Bad picture because I didn't identify this fast enough at the time, but this is where we meet up with the original 74 alignment out of American Fork.

The Alpine Highway has some great views of the south Little Cottonwood ridgeline as we enter Highland city limits

Turn left for the Highland city hall.

In Highland, this nice older shield tells us SR 92 is coming up.

SR 92 is the Timpanogos Highway (or 11000 North if you prefer), a major east-west arterial through the northeastern tier of Utah County.

In Highland, the Alpine Highway is also known as 5300 West.

Reassurance after the 92 junction.

Welcome to Alpine, where we C⏱️MMIT to the speed LIMIT Because Alpine C❤️RES. Clever, but something tells me that's not quite MUTCD compliant... 

The speed limit will drop to 20 mph as we enter Alpine and approach a roundabout with Canyon Crest Drive 

SR 74 will end just short of the roundabout.

SR 296

SR 296 is completely unsigned as far as I can tell, which isn’t unusual for an institutional route. We'll begin at 700 North and head up the entrance road to the Utah State Developmental Center.

After a quarter mile, we reach the perimeter road. We'll veer left here and head around it clockwise.

Heading around the west side of the campus.

Always a good reminder to drivers that a deaf person won't hear you coming... though with much quieter electric vehicles becoming more and more common, that increasingly applies to the hearing population too.

Continuing around the northeast end.

We'll pass through a roundabout here on the east side of the campus. Although there is an exit from here to North County Blvd (SR 129) which is just off the left edge of this photo, that is not part of 296.

Turn right here to stay on SR 296. The road to the left provides another non-296 exit from the developmental center campus.  

After heading back west for a bit, we reach the entrance road and complete our loop.

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