The modified multiuse plan devised by the Provo Canyon Parkway Committee, outlining a road design alternative for Provo Canyon, has provided a unifying compromise but does not solve all problems associated with a new road.
And vigilance on the part of county residents will be needed to ensure the concepts of that plan are actually included in the final road design.That was the consensus of panelists participating in a discussion sponsored Friday as part of a natural resources law forum symposium at Brigham Young University.
Panelists were Provo Mayor Joseph Jenkins, Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson, Sundance vice president and general manager Brent Beck and BYU botany professor Paul Cox.
The discussion was part of a day-long symposium focusing on the paradox of trying to balance competing interests in Provo Canyon. Doing so has been and continues to be difficult, panelists agreed.
Safety, aesthetics and the multiuse nature of the canyon were identified as primary areas of concern.
But each panelist pointed out additional areas that warrant public attention.
Jenkins said Provo officials and residents are concerned about the possible effect increased truck traffic funneling out of the canyon might have on Provo's air quality.
"The Utah Department of Transportation states trucks don't cause an air quality problem because they don't release carbon monoxide," said Jenkins. "But as a secondary factor they do, because they slow traffic and add to congestion problems along University Avenue."
Jenkins said the use of University Avenue by interstate trucks is a tremendous problem but that the problem would not be solved by shifting the truck traffic to Eighth North in Orem.
Jenkins said, however, that UDOT has told Provo officials there are ways to limit interstate truck traffic in the canyon, and Provo is working toward that end.
"When the road is completed we will have a four-lane, safe road that will be a truck magnet (because of lower grades and less curves)," said Anderson. "We will still need to address the interstate truck issue."
Anderson said increased truck traffic is one of two problems not solved by the modified multiuse plan written by the Parkway Committee of which he is co-chairman.
The second is the need to remain vigilant to ensure the plan is actually implemented.
Beck said all citizens of the valley have stewardship of the canyon and must stay with the project through its completion.
"The public accepted a plan 11 years ago for a two-lane road with two occasional passing lanes," Beck said. "UDOT began building the road you see at the mouth of the canyon. Regardless of what's been approved, what's been said, we have to be a watchdog, and stay right on every shovelful of dirt that is turned in that canyon."
Cox said because of the inadequacy of the supplemental environmental impact study it is impossible for the public to know exactly what kind of road it is buying and what the effects of that road will be.
Another speaker, David Magleby, a Brigham Young University political science professor and member of a citizens group fighting UDOT plans to renovate the road, warned of reduced property values. "The proposed road will lower your property values if you live within one mile of Eighth North (in Orem) or University Avenue (in Provo). There are people in Provo and Orem who are about to lose thousands and thousands of dollars in property values and they don't even know it. Unless we stop (UDOT) at this point, we will not be able to stop them later."
Magleby said UDOT's latest environmental impact study is "woefully inadequate" and fails to acknowledge most of the negative effects their plan will have on the Pro-vo/Orem area.
In addition to increasing air pollution, more truck traffic will also make driving through the area more dangerous, he said. And once the trucks get into city limits, they will be driving on roads near homes, schools and churches.
"The environmental impact statement grossly overlooks these concerns. We cannot tolerate in our neighborhoods, where our children go to school, this proposal," he said. "As a resident of Provo, I am deeply offended by the environmental impact study and its arrogant disregard for my children's safety."