Few things seem to be more upsetting than major changes in an existing roadway.
That kind of issue is now brewing in Davis County, where consultants have recommended an overhaul of U.S. 89 to cope with heavy traffic. But many residents would prefer to find some way to reduce the traffic flow instead of upgrading the road.Unfortunately, trying to turn back the clock won't work. Growth in Davis County has been very large in the past decade and the traffic on U.S. 89 has kept pace. It is one of only two north-south routes, I-15 being the other. There is simply no way to shrink traffic to pre-1980 levels. In fact, the traffic is going to keep increasing.
The major problem with U.S. 89 is a 12.6-mile section between Burke Lane in Farmington and the mouth of Weber Canyon. More than 22,000 cars a day use that route, an increase of 100 percent since 1980. In another 17 years, the volume is expected to reach 45,000 cars a day - as much as I-15 now carries.
The increasing traffic has made life difficult for residents in the area, who find it hard and hazardous to get across the highway that splits the community. Left turns are particularly difficult, especially from roadside businesses. Residents also are concerned about safety.
A $90,000 study commissioned by the state, Davis and Weber counties, and local governments has proposed making U.S. 89 a limited-access highway with six interchanges, and several miles of new frontage roads. More frontage roads are needed, even if U.S. 89 were left just like it is.
The study by Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc. also recommends eliminating all left turns on the highway and routing several major cross streets over or under the highway. Other major streets would allow "right in, right out" access, meaning that motorists could get on and off the highway by making right turns but could not cross over to the other side to travel in the left-hand direction.
These proposals make sense. However, the cost would be stiff - an estimated $70 million to $83 million. All of the money would have to come from Utah Department of Transportation coffers, not an easy thing to accomplish, although the project probably could be done in phases.
Opponents would prefer to slow the traffic and make access from cross streets easier by installing more traffic lights. This would slow traffic all right, to the point where it would create traffic jams. Safety studies have shown that traffic lights actually increase the number of accidents on a busy highway.
Given the nature of U.S. 89, the growth of traffic, and the future use expected, the only acceptable alternative seems to be to upgrade the highway to handle the demands being made upon it.
No decisions have been made by UDOT on how or when to proceed. But the highway clearly needs to be added to the state priority list of projects to be funded - and given a high priority. Delay will only see the problem grow worse.