This report is from Day 6 of our 2005 Summer Vacation, on August 2, 2005.
The Froggie/LadyMegs 2005 Great Circle Tour, Day 6: berries, lakes, and
2 hours of NOTHING!
- The sun rose early this day, and we were up and out to continue our trek, and start tilting it back to the east. The first step was getting back on I-15, where we saw that UDOT has braided ramps between the interchange at W 7200 South and the I-215 interchange. The ramp meters were also on, it still being during morning rush hour. UDOT only uses a 2-lens ramp meter...green and red, and also uses both side-mounted (like MnDOT) and overhead (like WisDOT) meter signals.
- Heading north, we spent a lot of our time between Midvale and downtown Salt Lake City in the carpool lane. I-15's HOV lanes are HOV-2 and appear to be 24/7...I saw no signage designating specific times where the lanes would be HOV use and normal use otherwise (like is done in Minnesota and Tennessee).
- Most of the exits along northbound I-15 had two lanes splitting off to the exit...usually an "exit only" auxiliary lane and an optional split in the rightmost through lane.
- From what I could tell, I-15 keeps 8 through lanes (if you include the HOV lanes) through the I-15/I-80/UT 201 "Nest of Vipers" interchange.
- 3 lanes exit from northbound I-15/80 to 600 South at Exit 306. This is apparently the main exit into downtown SLC.
- Just beyond that is Exit 307...a dedicated HOV-only exit to 400 South.
- The HOV lane ends just short of the exit to 600 North. I-15 stayed 6 lanes from here up to I-215 at Exit 316 (old numbering).
- I-15 goes back to 8 lanes at the I-215 merge, and kept 8 lanes up to US 89 at Exit 324 (new numbering...old Exit 327). That US 89 interchange was also signed as "TO I-84 EAST" going northbound.
- I-15 keeps 6 lanes north of that point to the UT 79 interchange at Exit 341, barely a mile north of where I-84 joins. I'd have expected the I-15/I-84 duplex to be more than 4 lanes, at least through Ogden.
- "Exit 361" along northbound I-15/84 was for a "Port of Entry". Basically UDOT-speak for a truck weigh station. A couple miles beyond was "Exit 363" for a rest area.
- We exited off at US 91, which shortly picks up US 89 for the run to Logan. US 89/91 up to Logan is a mix of 4-lane and 5-lane undivided with a couple of half-interchanges on the east side of Brigham City and at Mantua.
- We kept on US 89 where it turns off of US 91 in the middle of Logan. US 89 started off as a 5-lane road, up until just past Utah State University on the east side of Logan where it narrowed back to 2 lanes. Thus started a roughly 36 mile slog that, while very scenic as it meandered through mountain valleys, was also slow-going due to moderate traffic, limited passing opportunity, and a couple of construction zones.
- US 89 reaches the summit of the Bear River Range about 6 miles west of Garden City. Starting just past the summit and extending down into the valley on the west edge of Garden City is a major construction project where UDOT is rebuilding US 89, smoothing out several curves (including some hairpin turns) and they appear to be building it wide enough to accommodate a southbound climbing lane for the uphill grade.
- About halfway down the hill and this construction zone was a nice vista overlooking Garden City and a large part of Bear Lake. Garden City was established in 1877 and is known as a resort community on Bear Lake, but is also known for having the "perfect climate for growing raspberries". Indeed, there's an annual berry festival in the town that we just missed by only a few days.
- North of Garden City, US 89 follows the western shore of Bear Lake up into southeastern Idaho, actually staying about 1/4 to 1/2 mile inland from the lake. The immediate area is fairly flat as part of the Bear River valley, and US 89 passes through several small towns enroute to Montpelier. One item of note about this Idaho stretch of US 89 is that the US 89 shields all were brown (with white numbers).
- Upon entering Montpelier (a town of about 2,700 people), after crossing an overpass over a busy Union Pacific rail mainline, US 89 widens out to 4 lanes through the Montpelier downtown and up to the junction with US 30.
- Here we turned east on US 30. From Montpelier all the way to I-80, US 30 did not have any really long grades and was also relatively straight, plus had wide shoulders and left turn lanes at several junctions. Part of this may be because US 30 follows several river and creek valleys enroute to I-80: Bear River, Twin Creek, and Hams Fork. Furthermore, except for a couple ridgelines along the east side of the Bear River valley, there weren't a whole lot in the way of steep or tall mountains in the immediate area (relatively speaking for the Rocky Mountains). Also, it was obvious that there have been realignments of the road as in several locations the old roadway was clearly visible.
- US 30 crosses the Idaho/Wyoming line less than a half mile from the northern US 30/WY 89 junction. WY 89 appears to be a state-designated extension of Wyoming's portion of US 89, which crosses into Wyoming from Idaho further north.
- US 30/WY 89 has a center left turn lane through the small part of Cokeville it passes through, including at the junction where WY 231 and WY 232 both begin (in opposite directions).
- Kemmerer has a "BYPASS US 30" which bypasses the town and is the "through route", while what is signed as mainline US 30 still goes into town but one must turn to do so. The BYPASS route has a diamond interchange at US 189 that is signed as Exit 54. There are also gates on US 30 at the interchange, similar to several Interstate highways in the Plains states, used to close the roadway during inclement weather.
- Near Granger, US 30 crosses over a major Union Pacific mainline. A little to the south, along what I believe is a very old routing of US 30, were signs for a CR 2, suggesting that Sweetwater County has county routes.
- The I-80/US 30 junction is a fairly large trumpet interchange, with the EB off-ramp from I-80 being the loop.
- Except for Green River, Rock Springs, and the small oasis of Little America (Exit 68), there is pretty much *NOTHING* along I-80 along the segment we traveled (US 30 to Rawlins), and by extension along US 30 west to Kemmerer too. Even worse, a good 2 hours of this nothingness was IN THE SAME COUNTY....Sweetwater County, one of the largest counties (in land area) in the U.S.
- I-80 has a set of bored tunnels through a ridge in Green River.
- A construction project in the westbound lanes had all traffic in 2-lane/2-way operation in the eastbound lanes at Exit 104 (US 191 NORTH).
- As noted above, much of the route from Rock Springs to Rawlins was pretty empty, though I-80 itself sees a fair bit of traffic and there are excellent "railgeeking" opportunities with the parallel Union Pacific mainline. At one point, we saw a long westbound train that had three locomotives at the front and another locomotive at the rear. Also, due to the remoteness of the area and because I-80 in some areas was built right on top of the old US 30 alignment, WYDOT solved the problem of local access by providing several small interchanges along I-80. These interchanges had relatively short and narrow ramps, occasionally signed as low as 15 MPH, and were on a small footprint, presumably to cut down on construction costs. "Fuller" interchanges...your standard size/design diamond interchange for example...are provided at the state highway and other major junctions.
- I-80 crosses the Continental Divided twice, as the Divide splits for several dozen miles in southern Wyoming, creating the Great Divide Basin in the middle. The first crossing is near Exit 156 at an elevation of 6,930 feet. The second crossing, right at Exit 206, is at an even 7,000 ft elevation.
- On a small ridge overlooking Rawlins from the south, someone put in a large white "R", then near the top of the ridge put the full city name: "RAWLINS". These items are large enough to be seen on Google Earth.
- We finally departed I-80 at Exit 215, which is the east end of the I-80 Business Loop through Rawlins and is also where US 287 departs I-80 coming from the east. However, it was only signed as "Cedar Street" on the eastbound guide signage.
- There's a BYPASS US 287 on the east side of Rawlins that allows US 287 through traffic to avoid most of the town. The BYPASS route has T-intersections on each side though, requiring turns, though the north end has a "free right" movement for northbound bypass traffic going to northbound mainline US 287.
- US 287 is duplexed with WY 789 north of Rawlins. As with I-80, the two routes cross the Continental Divide twice. The first crossing is about 8 miles north of Rawlins at an elevation of 7,174 feet.
- After the first Divide crossing, US 287/WY 789 has a long descent into the Great Divide Basin, punctuated by a long southbound climbing lane and a left turn lane at the bottom for a paved side road named Mineral Exploration Rd.
- Between Mineral Exploration Rd and WY 73 (which also has a left turn lane as well as gates to close the road during winter weather), US 287/WY 789 crosses the Separation Flats within the Great Divide Basin. There are good views of the Ferris Mountains off to the northeast along this stretch.
- Just north of WY 73, US 287/WY 789 begins its climb up to its second crossing of the Continental Divide, though this one isn't quite as long as the southern crossing and is lower in elevation: 6,720 feet.
- Just north of a gap in the Red Hills, at Muddy Gap Junction, is the junction with WY 220. US 287 from the south and WY 220 to the northeast is the "through route" at the intersection, though southbound US 287/WY 789 traffic has a "free right" movement.
- Near the Natrona/Carbon County line, off of an old alignment of WY 220 is a rock feature called Devil's Gate, which is basically a chasm or canyon through the east end of the Granite Mountains, through which the Sweetwater River flows. The feature is also located within the "Mormon Handcart Historic Site".
- A little further down WY 220 is Independence Rock, which is a state historic site. To me it looked like a huge boulder on top of what was otherwise a flat area in the immediate vicinity. There must be some way to climb up the rock because we could see people standing at the top as we drove by.
- Natrona County also has county routes that are signed. One example off of WY 220 was CR 410, not too far north of Independence Rock.
- Started also seeing a fair bit of water at this point. Steamboat Lake (which really isn't much more than a large pond) is right off WY 220, and further east we could see Alcova Reservoir from the top of a ridge.
- Northeast of the Alcova Reservoir, there's a neat old Subdivided Warren Truss bridge over the North Platte River, next to WY 220's present-day river crossing (which suffice it to say is non-descript).
- Once north of WY 487, there started being more in the way of side roads and houses/farms. Our getting closer to Casper was further punctuated by WY 220 widening to 4 lanes (divided) about 5-6 miles outside of town.
- The WY 220/WY 258 junction looked like fairly new construction. This was also the first example we saw of a mast-arm signal where the mast arm extends completely across the traffic lanes.
- After making a left turn and going through the west side of Casper, WY 220 ends at I-25.
- I-25 through Casper (which also has US 20, US 26, and US 87 signed with it west of Exit 186) is basically a narrow 4-lane freeway design with a narrow inside shoulder (maybe 2-3ft). About a mile-and-a-half of it also had parallel one-way frontage roads with slip ramps between I-25 and the frontage roads.
- Our hotel was off Exit 185 (WY 258), and this exit also happens to be where the mall is. There was heavy reconstruction work underway on WY 258 which had lanes closed and created a bit of a traffic mess.
Next up: four highways, four presidents, and four storms.
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