Southern Utah officials believe four highways in their area should be part of the 58,000-mile network of major roads linking population and trade centers.

Roads recommended for improvements in 1994 are U.S. 89 from the Arizona border to I-70 in Sevier County; U-12 from U.S. 89 in Garfield County to Bryce Canyon National Park; U-9 from I-15 near St. George east to Mount Carmel, Kane County; and U.S. 89 and U-28 from I-70 in Salina, Sevier County, to I-15 at Nephi. That decision is left to the states, however.Officials say the national highway system is not aimed at establishing a network of new highways but improving heavily traveled highways. The program will provide federal money for project improvements and maintenance of high-priority routes.

Panguitch Mayor Maloy Dodds said the tunnels on U-12 need to be widened to make them safe for tourists. He said the 65-mile stretch of U.S. 89 between Panguitch and I-70 is narrow and winding and needs safety improvements.

Rep. Brad Johnson, R-Aurora, also sees a need for safer roads in his district, which includes Sevier, Sanpete and Juab counties.

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He noted that U.S. 89 from Salina to Gunnison and U-28 to Levan are used extensively by coal-hauling trucks. The coal is carried to a loading station near Levan where it is transported by rail to Geneva Steel, the West Coast and foreign markets.

"Rural Utah really depends on transportation," Johnson said. "It is critical, more so than anywhere."

Dodds said any highway improvements will enhance the economy of the area. "We live and die by the tourist season."

The rural routes that have been suggested for improvements would get federal money in 1994 if approved by Congress. A 1991 highway bill authorized $6.5 billion per year for the system.

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