Lasers To 3D Map Zion Highway Tunnel

Lasers seem to be much more valuable in the field of construction than for use in science fiction books or movies, as an upcoming mapping project in Utah will show. Beginning on March 16, Utah’s Zion National Park will have periodic closings of the historic Zion Mount Carmel Highway Tunnel in order to map an one and one-tenth mile-long passage with the aid of 3-D mapping lasers. Due to this mapping schedule, anyone traveling through the tunnel can expect delays of about 20 to 30 minutes from March 16 to 27.

Park managers want to use the lasers to map the tunnel’s measurements, as well as to inspect the tunnel’s current conditions. They also want to learn more on the materials that were originally used to build the iconic structure.
The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel’s construction began during the late 1920s, and was finished on July 4, 1930. At the time, it was known as the longest tunnel of its kind in the U.S. The tunnel was built along with the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to give a more direct route to Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, and for travel between these historic sites and the Zion National Park.

Later in 1989, rangers needed to negotiate in order to prevent accidents involving large vehicles such as tour buses and motor homes that had difficulty with the tunnel’s curved shape. Even so, the tunnel does restrict certain kinds of vehicles and as such, it is off-limits to semi-trucks, large commercial vehicles, as well as bicycles and walkers. Any private vehicles wider than 7 feet 10 inches or higher than 11 feet 4 inches must buy the $15 permit to transverse through the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel.

One aspect of the 3-D mapping with the lasers will help to determine if any recent accidents have damaged the tunnel and need to be repaired. The project schedule is expected to include 25-minute closings from March 16 to 20, sometimes between six and eight in the morning. The closings could continue to March 27 depending on how things proceed.

The special mapping laser equipment will construct a digital 3-D model of the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel, allowing for shorter periods of closings than conventional methods.

If you are planning to travel to the area of the Zion National Park and need to go through the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel, be sure to check with local authorities in the area to see how your travel could be delayed from March 12 to March 27, 2015. More information is available here.