PROVO — Dozens of people gathered at the old Utah County Courthouse Thursday night to hear about, and to voice their opinions on, the proposed bridge across Utah Lake.
The six-mile, $600-million bridge would connect Orem with Saratoga Springs and is about to be thoroughly reviewed by a team of experts to determine what kind of impact a bridge would have on the lake and the surrounding area. Thursday's meeting started a 45-day comment period on what the study should include.
People were met by the Department of Natural Resources (who will make the final say on the bridge), members and investors in Utah Crossing (the company who proposes to build the bridge), and members of several citizens' groups opposing the bridge.
But before the open house even started, citizens' groups against the bridge had their own meeting on the floor below.
Carol Walters, with the Utah Valley Earth Forum, was the first to speak and she voiced her disappointment that the proposal was even approved.
"This is our lake," the Provo resident said, "and we don't want it destroyed."
Marc Heileson, with the Sierra Club, talked about how he remembers duck hunting on the lake as a teenager and how the lake is a public treasure.
Todd Frye, with the Bonneville School of Seamanship, said he worries the bridge would be a dangerous place to boat under during summer storms that sometimes rise up unexpectedly.
But proponents of the bridge noted its benefits.
Utah Crossing directors said at least 300 new jobs will be created by the building of a bridge, there will be a decrease in vehicle emissions because of the shorter drive and there will be no cost to taxpayers.
"I'm totally in favor of the bridge," said Dale Warburton, a 67-year-old, who has lived in Pleasant Grove his whole life. "I think it will solve a lot of problems coming up as far as traffic is concerned."
Warburton came to the meeting and wrote down his opinion for the state to review. He said he is concerned about the lack of east/west corridors in Utah County and said population growth will demand more. He said he is also in favor of having a private group build the bridge instead of the government.
Others, like Katie and Clancy Black of Provo, were undecided.
"I think it might be nice, but I am not sure if the time to build it is right now," said Clancy Black, who is a civil engineering student at BYU.
The state plans to study Utah Crossing's ability to build the bridge, its financial aspects, structural engineering, traffic, visual impacts, land-use capability, fish and wildlife impact, water impact, geology impact and any navigational hazards. "We want to be very thorough," said Jason Curry, spokesman for Utah's Department of Natural Resources. "We don't want to look back at this saying we left something out."
The earliest this study would be done is the beginning to the middle of next year, Curry said, and then another 45-day comment period would start after the findings are presented. To make comments online, visit www.forestry.utah.gov/sovlands/utahlake/commentform.php.