An inadequate road in Sardine Canyon between Logan and Brigham City acts as a barrier between Cache Valley businesses and those on the Wasatch Front, former U.S. Rep. Gunn McKay said Friday during a joint press conference with gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson.
Businesses currently in Cache Valley are suffering because businesses that might use the road go elsewhere, said Wilson, the former democratic mayor of Salt Lake City.In addition to the lost economical benefits, Wilson said the highway poses a great danger for the 10,590 motorists that use the road each day.
"Having only three lanes creates a safety hazard," Wilson said, adding that the winding road's accident rate is about a third higher than that of a highly traveled urban street.
"The road is not safe, and through its improvement, lives will be saved and economic development and tourism will be enhanced in northern Utah," he said.
The press conference was held three-tenths of a mile from where five people died last month as the result of a head-on automobile accident.
"The highway (.S. 89) sees more traffic than some of the freeways in the state do," he said.
Reporters huddled to hear the politicians as cars and trucks roared along the highway, illustrating the point.
Officials want to widen the highway between Brigham City and Logan and add another lane. Wilson said Sardine Canyon has been a top priority of the State Road Commission for some time, but lack of funding for the project has been a problem.
He said the estimated cost to upgrade the highway would be between $1 million and $2 million for each mile of the 12-mile roadway.
Wilson said the costs of improving the highway could be incurred by bonding and by working aggressively with the federal government. He said this is an example of the kind of cooperation federal and state officials should have in working for Utah.
McKay claimed that in the past, he has been able to acquire excess funds allocated to other states from the federal government and hopes to be able to continue to do so if he wins the race for U.S. Congress. Such additional funds would help the state maintain more roads.
Wilson also commented on the controversial Burr Trail and said four inches of asphalt on the trail would not harm the environment and would allow more people to see the spectacular country.
"If it's the public's facility, the public should be able to use it," said McKay of the trail.
The Burr Trail is more of a symbolic battle than a real battle, said Wilson. "Let's get rid of the symbolism."