Residents expressed strong opposition to a proposal to turn U.S. 89 through Davis County into a limited access expressway at a public hearing Wednesday night.

More than 250 people attended the hearing, in Layton High School's auditorium, and many of them lined up against the expressway proposal.The elaborate system of access and frontage roads, interchanges and under- and overpasses is too expensive and will take too long to build, some residents said.

Others cited the effect of turning existing residential streets into access and frontage roads, saying it will harm the residential and semirural character of the foothills along the highway from Farmington to Weber Canyon.

Some supported the proposal, however, pointing to the area's urban growth and the increase in traffic on the four-lane highway, a major connector between Ogden and Salt Lake City.

Jerry Blair, the primary author of the study and recommendations, estimated the cost of converting the highway to a limited expressway at between $60 and $80 million, depending on how quickly the work begins and how much it will cost to acquire land for the access roads and interchanges.

Residents opposed to the proposal suggested installation of traffic signals at major intersections and a reduction in the 55 mph speed limit would be cheaper, easier and could be done sooner.

Blair said that option was looked at but discarded because studies show reducing the posted speed limit on a highway has little to do with slowing down drivers. And, Blair said, studies show traffic signals installed on highways usually increase, not decrease, the number of accidents.

Those statements were met with disbelief by many at the hearing, some of whom began jeering. The session threatened to turn ugly until study committee chairman Dean Brand, mayor of Fruit Heights, calmed the crowd down.

The study is proposing construction of two major interstate-style interchanges, one at Burke Lane in Farmington where U.S. 89 splits off from I-15 and the other at Hill Field Road.

Blair said his study shows the 12.6-mile stretch of highway from Burke Lane to Harrison Boulevard carries 23,000 vehicles per day, traveling an average of 58 mph. There are more than 50 access points on the highway's east side and more than 70 on the west side, Blair said, ranging from private driveways to major arterial streets with heavy traffic, including the two interstate highway interchanges.

The number of fatal accidents on the highway in the past few years spurred the mayors of the cities served by U.S. 89 to ask for the study, first proposed through the Davis Council of Governments.

Blair has spent more than six months on the study, with the final version to ready by mid-February.