As expected, the Utah Transportation Commission endorsed a so-called multiple-use development plan Friday for the Provo Canyon highway, despite doubts over the inclusion of a recreational path for bicyclists and joggers.
The unanimous vote on a resolution modifying an earlier alternative for improving a 22-mile stretch of U.S. 189 brings the decades-old proj-ect closer to reality, with construction expected to be under way by the spring of 1990.Concern was raised by one commissioner about the provision for a recreation path to be built by the Utah Department of Transportation alongside the highway between Olmstead Junction and Vivian Park.
The resolution also calls for the commission to work with other agencies and groups to extend the separated recreational path from Vivian Park to the Deer Creek Dam.
"Twenty years ago, I didn't perceive bicycles as part of our programs for highways. But I guess they are," Commissioner Todd Weston said. He said the commission was setting a precedent by spending highway funds on the path.
Commission Chairman Samuel J. Taylor said during a break in the morning meeting that the state already has built a bicycle path connecting I-80 with Park City.
"The commission has finally recognized that it is in the best interests of the state not just getting a highway built but in getting bicycles off the highway - the safety issue," Taylor said.
He said the decision marked a "maturation" in highway planning. The best highway, he said, "is no longer a straight line from Point A to Point B. It may have to wander a bit."
Asked later to explain his vote, Weston said that he supports funding a recreational path if that's how the majority of Utahns who pay gasoline taxes want their money spent.
"We want to build what people want. Or what they're willing to pay for - perhaps that's a better way to say it," Weston said. "I don't like special interest groups dictating policy, if that's what's happening."
Whether that is the case likely will not be known until the recreational path is constructed, he said, adding that he expects to see requests for similar paths in the state's other canyons.
The recreational path and the other proposed improvements between the mouth of Provo Canyon to U.S. 40, south of Heber, will be the subject of another hearing before construction on the $90 million project can begin.
Under the provisions of the alternative approved, the Provo Canyon highway would be a four-lane, divided road designed for speeds of up to 50 mph, with landscaped medians.