Heavy equipment move rock at the junction of Highway 191 and State Route 128 to build the Lions Park Transit Hub. Flat Iron Construction will remove 50,000 cubic yards of rock to build a 43-space parking lot, restrooms and shade structure. An underpass will be built to allow pedestrians and cyclists safe passage under SR 128. [Photo by Tom Haraden/ Moab Sun News]

Construction began on the Lions Park Transit Hub last week.

The Grand County Council awarded the $6.4 million contract last month to Flat Iron Construction to build the transit hub and Colorado River Pathway. The project is expected to be finished within a year. Traffic should not be disrupted until December, said Griffin Lloyd, Flat Iron Construction project manager.

The project will begin with the transit hub at the junction of Highway 191 and State Route 128. It will flow upriver approximately three miles with retaining walls, trail and elevated concrete pathways to Negro Bill Canyon. Approximately 1.5 mile of path will be built, which will connect on either side to the existing three-quarter-mile trail through the Goose Island Campground. The final segment of the project will be a bridge and trail at Negro Bill Canyon that will connect with the Lower Porcupine Singletrack trail that funnels mountain bikers onto SR 128 from the Sand Flats Recreation Area.

The Lions Park Transit Hub and Colorado River Parkway were designed by Horrocks Engineering.

Workers began pushing rock and dirt in the transit hub area at the junction of Highway 191 and State Route 128 on Monday, Oct. 29. They will remove 50,000 cubic yards of rock from the hillside south of SR 128 to create the transit hub, said Dave Dilman of Horrocks Engineering.

The transit hub will have 43 parking spaces for people to park their cars and get on their bikes. There will be a 200-foot loading and unloading area for shuttle vehicles and tour operators. Shade structures and restrooms will be built.

They will also build a 60-foot-long underpass to provide safe passage for bicyclists and pedestrians under SR 128 from the transit hub to the Lions Park Trail Hub, where they can access the pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River. When the underpass is in place pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel from Moab to State Route 313 without ever having to cross or share a road with cars.

“With this new path, a person can ride from their hotel, down that trail and across the bridge,” said Grand County councilman Chris Baird.

Lloyd said a shoofly, or detour lanes, will be built to the north of the existing road. to allow traffic to flow undisturbed while workers construct the underpass. This will allow commuters and visitors alike to use SR 128 without disruption to their travel schedules.

However, traffic will be heavily affected when workers begin the next phase the project to construct the retaining walls, elevated concrete pathways and trail. Flat Iron Construction is allowed to shut down to one lane between 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Traffic delays should be 15 minutes or less for commuters.

The only time the highway will be completely shut down is to use a crane to place drill shafts, columns, girders and bridge decks for the elevated path. Contractors are allowed to do full closures between 11:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. No work will be done on Friday and Saturday nights.

“No contractor wants to work at night. They only will work at night when they have to,” Dilman said.

Provisions for emergencies are in place, which would include calling dispatch in order to move the crane to have a lane open for necessary traffic, Dilman said.

Message boards to warn travelers about road closures and delay will be in place on Highway 128, on Interstate 70 near the Cisco exits, on Highway 191.

The North Moab Recreation Transportation System will be a $20 million project once the transit hub and the elevated path along State Route 128 to Negro Bill Canyon is completed in 2013.

Most of it was paid by federal grants. Some of it was incorporated into the Utah Department of Transportation plan. Some of it came as a match from Grand County and the City of Moab for grants received.

Kim Schappert from Moab Trail Alliance worked with the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program to find nearly $9.2 million to build the transit hub and the elevated path along State Route 128 to Negro Bill Canyon. The contract to build the transit hub and pathway is $6.4, which leaves a $2.8 for a contingency budget.

Congress set this money aside specifically for alternative transportation projects. It does not take money away from federal or state highway or road projects. It is intended to provide money for alternative transportation projects that connect communities to public lands.

“Kim has done a wonderful job in pulling this together,” said Russ von Koch, an avid bicyclists and former Bureau of Land Management employee who has worked closely on the North Moab Recreation Transportation System.

Von Koch said the grant process was a competitive one, as proposed projects from across the country were seeking the same money. The funding did not come in one lump sum, but over several years.

“Anything that takes bikes off the highway is going to do a lot of good around here in the long run. People love biking around here and hundreds of thousands of people come here to ride their bikes,” Von Koch said.

Schappert has since submitted an application for an additional $2 million grant from the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program. Should that $2 million be granted, those monies and the remaining contingency budget can be used to reduce the three-quarter mile gap that will remain between Negro Bill Canyon and Goose Island Campground.

Photo illustration of the Lions Park Transit Hub The transit hub will have a 43-space parking lot, shade structure and restrooms. An underpass will be built to allow safe passage across State Route 128 for pedestrians and cyclists from the transit hub to Lions Park Trail Hub. [Courtesy of Grand County Planning Dept.]