AMERICAN FORK — For Jack Elwell, losing his home and three acres is a possibility, but it has nothing to do with the mortgage crisis.

One option for the Vineyard Connector, which is in the environmental study stages, would run through his property, forcing him to give up his land to the state. Surprisingly, though, Elwell thinks it's a good option.

The fully funded $170 million connector would link Orem to American Fork near Utah Lake and would tie in with Pioneer Crossing Boulevard, which will be built in Lehi. Both roads are part of the Access Utah County project.

The preferred route " ... takes my house, but for the community I think it's better (than the other option)," Elwell said.

The other option would require the Utah Department of Transportation to buy several commercial buildings, costing taxpayers a lot more money, something that Elwell said he opposes.

If UDOT ultimately chooses the route through Elwell's property, it will pay fair market value for the property.

"I think they'll offer me what they think is fair market value, but I'm not sure their offer will be in line with current real estate values," he said.

UDOT held an open house Wednesday in American Fork to receive public comment on the Vineyard Connector.

Project team members have identified many options for the route. In the south end, the route would extend from 800 North in Orem, curve through the Anderson Geneva property and head northward. Two options exist on the property, one of which is closer to the lake.

Several options also exist in Lindon and American Fork. All of the options in American Fork would affect agriculturally protected lands. If landowners decide not to sell, UDOT has to choose the option with the least environmental impact, which includes everything from wetlands and the agricultural areas to resident relocation, said Joe Walker, public involvement coordinator for Access Utah County.

Nearly 60 residents attended Wednesday's meeting to learn more about the road and give comment. Bill Fowler, a project manager for Anderson Geneva, said the road would run through about two miles of the property. He said the company will work with UDOT.

"We'll be friendly," he said. "We like to see this happen; it's a great solution for the county."

Fowler said the road is a "mixed blessing" for the company. Although the road would cut through the property, it would also be close to the intermodal hub for the commuter rail that will eventually come to Vineyard and the Anderson Geneva property.

Ed Gifford, Orem city engineer, said he believes it's important for the county to have alternate routes.

"I think the Vineyard Connector overall is a good decision," he said. "We need multiple routes for transportation."

UDOT intends to have the Vineyard Connector completed before the Interstate 15 expansion project, which is expected to begin in 2010. The connector will relieve some of the pressure and congestion during the construction.

The public comment period ends July 16. For information or to make a comment, visit www.udot.utah.gov/vineyard, or call 753-7343. Comments can also be e-mailed to [email protected].


E-mail: csm[email protected]