The long-awaited public hearing on improving the Logan Canyon highway will be held Tuesday. And it promises to be as intense as past debates over the controversial project.

"We expect this to be a very heated public hearing," said Kim Morris, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation.At issue is how much improvement to the scenic stretch of U.S. 89 should take place. The draft environmental impact statement that will be debated proposes eight alternatives ranging in cost from $13.4 million to just preserve the exiting roadway, to a $50.1 million redesign for high-speed traffic. The draft doesn't recommend an alternative.

High emotion on both sides of the issue won't faze UDOT or anyone else who has followed the controversy for the past 20 years.

"There are always strong feelings from residents who want to protect the canyon," Morris said. "It's akin to proposing major improvements in Big or Little Cottonwood" canyons in Salt Lake County.

Conservationists quashed two past attempts by UDOT to widen and improve the 28-mile section between Right Hand Fork in the canyon and Garden City on the west shore of Bear Lake. But UDOT hopes this latest effort results in at least one choice because the narrow bridges along the highway are deteriorating and need to be replaced.

To ensure some improvements surface, UDOT has taken five years gathering input to come up with eight options - including one proposed by the group Citizens for the Protection of Logan Canyon.

The conservationist proposal calls for replacing and widening bridges and culverts and a minimal number of improvements for turning, climbing, parking and flood prevention. But it would maintain the roadway's width and alignment. It would cost $15.63 million.

This compares to the highest-cost alternative of $50.1 million, which would almost double the width of the road, not including 12-foot-wide climbing lanes along 17 percent of the route.

But conservationists aren't the only group UDOT had to satisfy with an acceptable option. State officials also had to work out differences with the Forest Service and federal highway administrators. This resulted in the $34.39 million "composite alternative" - a combination of other more expensive options.

Conservationists blast this alternative for adversely affecting upper parts of the canyon.

Despite the criticisms, UDOT feels that because there is no agreement on any one alternative, the draft offers a thorough range of choices on dealing with the canyon road.

"Any kind of compromise will make neither side happy," Morris said.


How to comment

Public hearing:

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m.

Mount Logan Middle School auditorium

875 N. 200 East, Logan

Written statements (no later than Feb. 15):

Utah Department of Transportation R. james Naegle, project engineer 4501 S. 2700 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84119