HUNTSVILLE -- Outdoor recreation enthusiasts can get a head start on their Memorial Day activities -- the Monte Cristo highway will open on Monday, nearly a week sooner than transportation officials expected.
Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Vic Saunders said the road will open to all motorists at 8 a.m.
The road was originally slated to open Friday, but because of the success of a recent UDOT study involving melting agents, the opening was accelerated by several days.
"For quite a while now, we've been trying to see what we can do to get our mountain passes open sooner," Saunders said. "Depending on what the winter is like, they can be closed well into the summer."
In 2011, the Monte Cristo highway (State Road 39) didn't open until July because of extremely high snow levels, with off-highway snow depths in excess of 25 feet in some locations.
The highway has been closed since November between Mile Marker 37, at the Ant Flat Road area east of Huntsville, and Mile Marker 56 near Woodruff.
Once the gates are open, the entire length of the roadway between those two points will remain in service through approximately late November.
Saunders said the road is closed during the winter because of safety concerns and the prohibitive costs of keeping it open to traffic.
Motorists are reminded that winter storm conditions may occur near the summit of the highway at any time from now through late June, and are encouraged to be prepared to deal with those conditions before embarking on any travel on the road.