When motorists start whizzing along the new West Valley Highway, hazards for schoolchildren will speed up along with them.
School, state and local officials have been meeting regularly to avoid collisions - both with each other's authority and on the highway, which will be crossed by students attending several schools in Jordan and Granite School districts (see map).The give and take has taken years.
The major six-lane, limited-access expressway being constructed on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley has been planned for decades.
Knowing the road was coming, Granite District officials adjusted school boundaries so few straddle the highway. Those elementary pupils who have to cross the new road to attend school are already bused, said Carl Christiansen, the district's associate director of property management, emergency conservation and safety.
In Granite District, the highway will primarily affect West Lake Junior High, Valley Junior High and Granger High students. Last week, it also cut into Granger High's baseball field.
Christiansen said Granite District's school board approved the sale of 3.7 acres of Granger's baseball park to UDOT at a "compromise" fee of $90,000. The lost acreage, needed for the new road, required "moving the backstop a bit, but it won't seriously impact the campus," Christiansen said.
He can't, however, guarantee that motorists won't be hit by over-the-fence home run balls.
The highway will more adversely affect Jordan District, including several elementary school pupils whose schools and homes are on opposite sides of the highway.
Knowing this, "we are looking at various options with the board, including busing, changing boundaries, moving schools," said Tom Smith, UDOT assistant district director. "We are looking at those options because sky-walks cost about $500,000 each." He said one overpass will be built at 6200 South and two others - at 7000 South and 7800 South - are being evaluated.
Other safety measures are also on the blueprints.
No sidewalks will parallel the West Valley Highway, and fences, running down both sides of the road, will prohibit ready access. Sidewalks will run 300 feet on each side of the highway on streets that intersect with it.
"We are also putting in signal heads with pedestrian crossings so any student who needs to cross can push the button and have sufficient time," Smith said.
One Granite school board member isn't satisfied with UDOT's plans. Lynn Davidson wants the state to do more.
"If the road they are building increases traffic a mile from the highway, the state needs to address those problems," said Davidson, citing a 200-300 percent increase in traffic near Truman Elementary, where a 9-year-old student was killed in 1989. An overpass is now being constructed near the school, he said, costing Granite District $50,000.
"As (the state) builds the budget, they need to look at what problems are we creating up and down the street on both distances."
But UDOT spokeswoman Shirley Iverson said those roads are under the jurisdiction of the counties or cities, and thus the responsibility of other entities. "I think it's obvious we don't have unlimited funds, but we do try to improve the intersections as far as we can," she said.
Schools that will have unsafe crossings created by the West Valley Highway:
1. West Lake Junior High
2. Granger High
3. Valley Junior High
4. Westbrook Elementary
5. Oquirrh Elementary
6. West Jordan High
7. Columbia Elementary
8. Joel P. Jensen Middle
9. Terra Linda Elementary
10. Bingham High
Highway construction schedule
- Phase One - 2100 South to 3100 South; 1.4 miles; $6.2 million construction under way; estimated completion: October 1991.
- Phase Two - 3100 South to 4100 South; 1.5 miles; $6.5 million construction under way; estimated completion: November 1991.
- Phase Three - 4100 South to 5400 South; 2 miles; $8.2 million; estimated advertising: spring 1991; estimated completion: summer 1992.
- Phases Four-Six - 5400 South to 9000 South; $29 million; estimated completion: summer 1994.