The irony of the Information Age is that citizens of free nations often feel blind-sided by decisions that have been debated in public for years. We won't be surprised to hear some people feel this way one day when construction begins on the Mountain View Corridor.
But you don't need to be taken off guard. The Utah Department of Transportation has issued a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed highway, which will provide north-south access somewhere in the western end of Salt Lake County, reaching down into northwest Utah County.
Sure, it's 2,238 pages long and weighs 18 pounds in printed form. But an electronic version of the plan is available at www.udot.utah.gov/mountainview. In addition, copies are available at local libraries. UDOT has scheduled three public hearings on the plan, Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. at Hunter High School, Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at Willow Creek Middle School in Lehi, and Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at Copper Hills High School. The department is asking for your feedback between now and Jan. 24.
The Mountain View Corridor comes with its share of controversy, mostly having to do with funding. The highway may well become Utah's first major toll road. That's because federal funding for highways has virtually disappeared. The state needs this highway to keep up with growth both on the west side of Salt Lake County, where various housing projects are expected to attract 500,000 new residents over the next several years, and in northwest Utah County, where the new cities of Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain are expected to grow considerably.
But the project is expected to cost about $2 billion, and the state currently has about $390 million available through bonds in the two counties. The gulf between those two numbers has to be made up somehow. If it doesn't come through tolls, it must come through taxes of some sort.
We have long said the state should look seriously at the option of charging tolls. There is a fairness issue involved, however. West side residents could well be asking themselves why they should have to pay when residents along the east side can use I-215 freely.
The plan also presents different options for the highway's alignment and for its eventual hookup with I-15 in Utah County.
As with all large highway projects, this one has enemies and detractors. It will require some houses to be destroyed and will impact the environment. That's all the more reason for average citizens to become involved now, during the planning phase, before they feel blind-sided when the bulldozers begin rolling.