Alan Neves, Deseret News
HERRIMAN — The Oquirrh Connection Committee is in the early stages of discussing a feasibility study to expand and improve the road through Butterfield and Middle canyons.
The committee hopes to create a corridor that would cut 20 miles of travel between Salt Lake and Tooele counties. The road, which currently closes between November and June, would then stay open year-round.
“It’s quiet. It’s peaceful,” said Salt Lake County resident Sean Hoover. “We see wildlife."
But all of that serenity would disappear for Hoover, a cyclist, if the project becomes a reality.
“It’s one of the few areas in the valley we can go six months out of the year, no traffic, no cars,” he said.
On his bike rides up and down Butterfield Canyon, he sees that the road "gets widely used in the winter and summer time, there are people up here constantly,” Hoover said.
The road covers 48 miles between the two counties. The road is paved on the Salt Lake County side but not on the Tooele County side. The plan also includes a tunnel at the steepest part of the canyon.
“Tunnel sounds interesting. Tunnels aren’t usually safe for cyclists,” said Hoover.
If the project goes through, he hopes it would accommodate cyclists, runners and pedestrians. “If they do just the road, then I’m not in favor of that at all,” he said.
“I think the road can be constructed so that both goals and objectives could be met,” said Herriman Mayor Carmen Freeman, who heads the committee. “We can have access to the counties and also preserve the beauty as well as recreational activities that can take place in the canyon."
Freeman said talk of the road was heightened with news of the possibility the Utah State Prison could move to Tooele County.
The expansion “would be more viable for relatives and others who have family members who are at the prison and give them better flexibility of visiting. Also, (better access for) workers who would work there,” Freeman said.
Expanding the road would benefit the growing population in the area as well as help the environment in the long run, he said. “We think that by helping to spread out the traffic congestion, that would help to minimize some of the air quality issues.”
Early estimates suggest the project would cost half a billion dollars.
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