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Utah Arch Tunnels to Get Shotcrete Revamp

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

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A pair of historic rock tunnels that serve as an entryway to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah are getting a $2.5 million makeover, including the replacement of a layer of shotcrete inside the formations that help keep them stable.

The two short arch tunnels, through which State Route 12 passes under a pair of red rock formations, were built starting in 1914, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. They are in the Red Canyon area of Bryce Canyon National Park, in southern Utah, just north of the Grand Canyon and east of Zion National Park.

Bryce Canyon rock tunnel
Greg Willis, CC-BY SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For travelers heading east from Dixie National Forest, the short rock tunnels serve as a symbolic entrance into Bryce Canyon.

The tunnels were the site of a grand opening ceremony for Bryce Canyon National Park in 1925. For travelers heading east from Dixie National Forest, they serve as a symbolic entrance into Bryce Canyon.

The tunnels are one of the monuments on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, as State Route 12 is known in that area. They are part of Red Canyon’s “weirdly sculpted erosional forms variously described as turrets, hoodoos, pinnacles, or spires,” as the Scenic Byway website explains.

Failing Shotcrete

The scenic arches need some work to remain structurally sound, though, engineers told the Tribune, as inspections have shown the reinforced concrete material to be flaking and cracking. The Utah Department of Transportation is devoting $2.5 million in bridge fund money (the tunnels are maintained by the department’s bridge division) to replace the shotcrete lining.

UDOT will “rehabilitate the arch tunnels by removing the old shotcrete lining, stabilizing the underlying rock arch and construct a new reinforced shotcrete lining,” department structural engineer Carmen Swanwick told the Tribune.

"This work will provide additional service life to the arch tunnels," Swanwick added, "and protect the integrity of such a beautiful and historic and scenic highway."

Price Tag Question

Not everyone agrees with the allocation, though. In a letter to the Tribune, a reader named C.V. “Skip” Anderson recently wrote that he headed up a repair job on the tunnels in the early 1960s, and he questions the $2.5 million price tag on the new restoration.

Anderson wrote: “I obtained all of the materials at Richfield. White cement, orange coloring and lightweight aggregate from a local cinder block dealer. A gunite machine was rented locally.

“The job took about two days and was done so well that I received a certificate of appreciation from the National Park Service.

“The total cost of the project was less than $2,000.”

UDOT has not released a timeline for the project.


Tagged categories: concrete; Government; Infrastructure; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Tunnel

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