KAYSVILLE — Commuters in Davis and Weber counties now have an idea of what their drive could look like with a potential new highway.
The Utah Department of Transportation unveiled the latest alternatives Thursday for the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway.
UDOT said the highway is needed to mitigate forecasted growth along the corridor, while some area residents and conservation groups have expressed concerns about the project claiming it would displace families and threaten natural wetlands.
At issue is a proposed 24-mile long roadway along the West Davis Corridor that would run from Centerville to Marriott-Slaterville between the Great Salt Lake on the west to I-15 on the east. The cost of the project is estimated to be in the range of $440 million to $480 million.
UDOT presented three alternative proposals to stakeholders during a meeting in Kaysville. Two of the alternatives would involve displacing residents and impacting farmland and wetlands, while the third was a nonbuild option that would leave the area "as-is."
Some property owners are angry over the proposal to build a four-lane highway through their neighborhoods — which would result in those families being forced out and their homes being torn down.
"The hard part of eminent domain is that it is always going to affect somebody," said Bruce Bassett with citizens group savefarmington.org. "(The plan) is either going to take (my property) out or put a freeway right in my front yard."
In addition, environmental advocates claim the highway would damage nearby wetlands along the proposed route — a sentiment that many local property owners like Bassett share.
"A lot of us bought there because of the wide open spaces," Bassett said. "For that reason, we feel like we side with the environmental folks because … of the wetlands, the birds and everything else."
Chris Montague, director of conservation programs for the Nature Conservancy, said he was "disappointed" by some of UDOT's proposed routes that encroach on the Great Salt Lake shoreland preserve. But he noted that there is still time to make changes to the routes that could mitigate the current environmental concerns.
UDOT said it will continue to meet with citizens groups in an effort to address their concerns.
The agency said the road would alleviate 6,840 collective hours per day motorists spend sitting in traffic. The idea has been under consideration for almost 50 years as well as studied at least twice over that time.
"We know that the corridor in this area can cut the level of traffic congestion (in western Davis and Weber counties) by half over the next 30 years," said UDOT project manager Randy Jeffries.
The north-south travel options — which were pared down from an original 46 different routes — would begin in Centerville, where the proposed four-lane, divided highway would split from I-15 and head northwest on varying routes through Syracuse, West Point, Clinton, Hooper and West Haven. Initially the road would have ended at 12th Street in Ogden, but that segment has been removed from the current proposals.
Jefferies explained new roads are necessary to keep up with the estimated 75 percent growth in the area by 2040. If transportation options are not built, a recent environmental impact study points out that the more than 303,000 population would be road-blocked in 30 years.
Meanwhile, Tim Wagner of the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club, said UDOT should forgo building a new highway and focus more on developing more mass transit that would reduce traffic and limit pollution in northern Utah.
"Air quality is a big issue for everybody along the Wasatch Front and if we add more cars to the mix, that makes our air quality worse," Wagner said. "These are issues we need to be looking at."
UDOT, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates transportation needs through the year 2040, while considering community and environmental concerns to identify a solution that would benefit the West Davis and Weber areas.
"Our goal is to minimize those impacts and work with those who live in the community," Jefferies said. "(And) to work together with all those who are interested in transportation and the environment to find the right location for the project.
A final selection will be made upon the completion of the study in 2013. The agency would then ask the state Legislature for funding options to build the new highway.
For more information on the West Davis Corridor alternatives, visit udot.utah.gov/westdavis.
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