PROVO — Dozens of local residents got a glimpse at alternatives for a belt-loop highway that will cut through the city's last wide-open space in the next 10 years.

An estimated 100 Provo residents weighed in on the six alternatives for the proposal, dubbed the Provo westside connector, Thursday night at an open house in Amelia Earhart Elementary at 2585 W. 200 South. The alternatives are intended to accommodate projected transpirations and community needs on the southwest side of Provo between Provo City Municipal Airport and I-15.

With six different alternatives marked off by a variety of rainbow colors, residents found plenty to say — both positive and negative.

Mike Scott, a Provo resident who lives near 600 South and 1100 West, said he didn't like the looks of the proposed roadway system that would extend existing roads at 600 South and 920/1150 South clear to 3110 West. He said he prefers the alternative that would create a new road-

way that would start at the University Avenue I-15 Interchange and veer northwest through farmland.

"(It) has the least impact on wetlands and people," he said. "Doesn't that make more sense?"

Provo, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, and Utah Department of Transportation, is spearheading the study to improve transportation infrastructure between the freeway and Provo City Municipal Airport. They started with 39 possible alternatives and eventually whittled their way down to six proposals, said Tom Twedt, division manger for Bio-West — a company contracted to help out with the westside connector study.

Those six feasible roadways proposed to improve connectivity on the westside include:

• An elevated expressway running above Center Street from the I-15 Interchange to 3110 West.

• Improvements and extensions on 600 South and 920/1150 South to 3110 West.

• A new east-west roadway with an underpass at 1500 S. University Ave., to 3110 West.

• A new arterial road that would run from a new alignment at the University Avenue Interchange to 3110 West.

• A new roadway that would run from the University Avenue Interchange and connect to an existing roadway at 1600 West and 600 South.

• An east-west causeway that would cut through Provo Bay, providing connection from I-15 to 3110.

Nothing is set in stone at this point, Twedt said. The city could combine alternatives or decide to take no action at all if that's what's best.

Each proposal presents its own mix of environmental, social and economic impacts, which is why they're taking a long time to finalize the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Westside Connector. The process began September 2006 when UDOT gave their approval to start the study, and the cooperating organizations don't expect to be completed with the draft EIS until June 2009.

Actual roadwork probably won't begin until sometime in 2010, Twedt said. Though federal money has been earmarked for the project, no ballpark figures can be given at this time. Twedt also said they are uncertain how wide the potential roadway could be. All those details are expected to follow in the coming months.

Ken Sim, an environmental analyst with Bio-West, said the project is meant to address future traffic needs as the westside of Provo builds out.

"Before everyone is backed up 16 cars at a stop light in your neighborhood, let's get it taken care of now," he said.

Scott agrees the westside will face traffic issues that should be sorted out now, but he said engineers should focus on widening Center Street, instead of building over it.

"If this is to provide people with better access, then it starts at Center Street," he said.

Twedt said it's a bit more complicated than that.

"We've looked at that (option)," he said. "And we felt it had so many issues with disrupting neighborhoods and historic grounds."

City Councilwoman Sherrie Hall Everett said she doesn't support an elevated expressway over Center Street or a causeway over Utah Lake. But whatever engineers plan to do, she and other westside residents just want to see a well-thought-out roadway.

"(Residents are) keeping an eye on what's going to be good development and what's going to help move the traffic," she said.

Everett also said now's the time to speak up if residents see something they don't like with any of the alternatives.

"It's better than when a decision has already been made," she said.

More information is available at www.provowestsideconnector.com. Comments can be sent to hyatt@pbworld .com or call 801-288-3207.


E-mail: jdana@desnews.com