A proposed redesignation of U.S. 189 has Orem officials upset and looking for someone to blame.
The change would redirect Provo Canyon traffic from University Avenue in Provo to Eighth North in Orem.Provo officials favor the change as it would ease congestion on University Avenue, thus decreasing exhaust fumes and improving air quality. This would help them meet an Environmental Protection Agency requirement to clean up the area.
But Orem officials don't see why they should jeopardize their own air quality, increase traffic through a residential area and put more stress on their road just to help Provo.
According to a study by Jack Jones, Orem public works director, the re-designation would increase truck traffic from 200 trucks each day, each direction, to 300. The number of other vehicles using Eighth North would increase from the current 8,000 to an estimated 10,000.
The Utah Department of Transportation outlined the proposed change in a letter to Homer Chandler, executive director of Mountainland Association of Governments, on March 23. When it was discussed at Orem's April 12 city council meeting, tempers flared.
"I don't see why Provo should solve its problem by sending pollution to us," Councilwoman Joyce Johnson said.
Councilman Keith Hunt was worried about city planning.
"This will destroy all our careful efforts to develop the Eighth North corridor the way we wanted," he said. "This is a blatant disregard for our concerns.'
Orem Mayor Blaine Willis fired a letter to the UDOT and other involved agencies the next day. He asked that re-designation plans be put on hold until Orem can state its case. UDOT agreed to table plans until Willis, Chandler, and Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins can meet.
Provo officials don't know what the fuss is about.
"We understood it was part of an agreement made when the UDOT widened Eighth North three years ago," Raylene Ireland, administrative assistant to Jenkins, said Friday. "The improvements were made as part of a plan to re-designate Eighth North as a belt route."
Orem City Manager Daryl Berlin disagrees.
"They may have thought there was an agreement, but it's not true," he said. "We have researched it, and UDOT has researched it. We can't find any documentation."
Dan Nelson, UDOT District 6 director, said he is not sure when the idea first came up.
"I personally don't know of evidence either way, but the plans are on hold for now anyway," he said.
Brooke Adams, Provo Canyon Committee member, cannot figure out why everyone is acting surprised.
"Two years ago we got involved with the project in Provo Canyon. We were concerned about trucking and safety provisions for the canyon. Early on, we told Orem Eighth North would be the preferred route for trucking, especially after it was widened. There are fewer stop lights than on University, and it connects more directly with I-15. Our warning fell on deaf ears. Nobody wanted to hear about it."
Chandler said the mayors' meeting has not yet been scheduled.
"I've talked to both mayors, and we have all agreed to meet."
"We feel very good about talking with Orem about any issue," Ireland said. "This is an important issue, and sitting down and talking with the principals is the only thing that really makes sense."