A proposed Mountain View Corridor route found a new enemy Tuesday night: Granite School District.
The Granite Board of Education approved a resolution encouraging the Utah Department of Transportation to find a different spot for the corridor other than 5800 West, where it would cut across two schools' campuses and come within 500 meters of three others.
"I can't help but ask myself, are we more concerned with wetlands, or our children?" board member Gayleen Gandy said. "I'm just sorry it took us this long to get involved."
The board joins Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Sierra Club in opposing the 5800 West proposal, and is believed to become the first governmental entity in Salt Lake County to oppose the route for environmental and safety reasons.
The board's resolution will be sent to UDOT, West Valley City and legislators.
The resolution comes after UDOT's official comment period ended in January on a draft study of the road. However, both UDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will take the board's position into consideration, said Teri Newell, UDOT project manager over Mountain View Corridor.
"We take anybody's comments into account," Newell said.
The Mountain View Corridor is a multi-lane highway planned to run about 40 miles from the northwest corner of Salt Lake County into northern Utah County. UDOT now is reviewing public comments about routes for the road, and anticipates it could obtain federal approval to build Mountain View sometime next year.
UDOT has been studying the road for the high-growth, west side for about five years. Although no specific route for the highway has been approved, UDOT has said it prefers Mountain View run down 5800 West in Salt Lake County and 2100 North in Utah County.
Newell said there were "a lot of compelling reasons for 5800 West," including the fact that fewer wetlands and homes would be impacted, and it is "more central to the people who are using it."
West Valley City and two Magna community councils support the 5800 West option. But the Hunter Council PTA wants at least the city to rethink its backing, and hopes the school board resolution will help.
"I'm hoping to make more people aware there's a genuine concern out there," said Linda Hansen president of the Hunter Council PTA, which includes nine schools in the Hunter High School community.
The road is particularly close to Whittier and West Valley elementaries and Hunter Junior High, and would go straight through the playground at Hillside Elementary and Hunter High School's soccer field, Hansen said.
"The first time I walked out there (at Hillside) and saw where it's going ... it was scary," she said. "It's so close."
Noise, health and safety are chief concerns for the PTA. The Sierra Club, Utah Moms for Clean Air and Physicians for a Healthy Environment also have been shouting the past year about the health effects of the road on children attending the schools and living in nearby homes.
Dr. Brian Moench with the physician's group has said living near a busy road will increase the likelihood of leukemia, asthma and other illnesses in children. He said published and peer-reviewed medical studies support his assertion. This summer, Moench and members of Moms for Clean Air went door-to-door in neighborhoods surrounding 5800 West to warn parents about the risk. Very few people were aware the road was even going through their neighborhoods.
"There are 5,000 children in just those five schools that would be affected," Hansen said. "This is not good for kids, and we need to do what's good for kids."
The school board agrees.
"We (would) put this highway right next to the playground areas of five schools," Gandy said, citing literature recommending people refrain from exercising near highways due to pollution concerns.
The board acknowledges more people on the west side brings more need for a new transportation corridor. But it doesn't want a six- to eight-lane freeway in schools' backyards.
"Other routes are possible which allow for the construction of the needed corridor but which are not in close proximity to schools," the board's proposed resolution states. "For the health and safety of children and staff, the Board of Education of Granite School District encourages the Utah Department of Transportation to develop an alternate plan to the 5800 West route for the Mountain View Corridor that does not bring the corridor into close proximity to schools."
A 7200 West option would not impact schools.
UDOT said it has looked at close to 300 options for the road, finally whittling the decision down to 7200 West and 5800 West, Newell said. In addition, the agency took a look at air quality when studying the road, but it was a bigger-picture look, instead of narrowly focused on school children.
"We do meet or exceed all the federal standards regarding air quality," Newell said.The UDOT study is a draft copy. UDOT is expected to submit the draft to federal agencies for review, after which UDOT will release a final study for public comment. After that, UDOT will present the study and comments to the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration for final approval. While those bodies rarely send agencies back to the drawing board, an Army Corps of Engineers decision did set back one proposal for the Legacy Parkway in Davis County.