Tom Smart, Deseret News
Educators and parents say this South Jordan walkway is needed for children to cross safely. Developers say it inhibits economic growth.

SOUTH JORDAN — What is the price of the life of one child?

That is the question educators and parents are posing to South Jordan city officials and developers who want to demolish a walkway at 10400 South and 1300 West. The skybridge serves a diminishing number of South Jordan Elementary School students.

City officials and developers say the walkway is an impediment to commercial development. Further, the walkway was created when South Jordan Elementary was on the northwest corner of the site. The school has since moved.

Educators and parents, however, say a few students still use the walkway on their trek to the new South Jordan Elementary, 11205 S. Black Cherry Way (1375 West). The school is on a year-round schedule.

"If even just one student needs to cross safely, that is what is most important to us," said Jordan School District Superintendent Barry Newbold.

"What is the worth of ensuring a student is safe?" Newbold said. "That is worth a lot."

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, about 15 to 20 people use the walkway each day. City officials have counted zero to nine children using the walkway to and from the new school on any given day.

Don Tingey, director of urban renewal and residency for South Jordan, said there is the potential for development on the southwest and northwest corners of the intersection. "The skybridge poses a lot of concerns for potential buyers," Tingey said.

The city would like to demolish the walkway "so these two corners can be developed to their highest and best use, but not at the expense of the safety of children," Tingey said.

He points out that the old school building on the northwest site, which was leased to the private school American Heritage, is now unused and scheduled to be torn down.

Developer Garn McMullin, a member of Dixons LLC, which owns the 1.3-acre southwest parcel by the walkway, has offered to pay for demolition of the skybridge. He said the winding ramp takes up about 100 feet of his property.

"It's very restrictive on the corner, from a commercialization standpoint," he said.

McMullin estimates it would cost $100,000 to $150,000 to tear down the walkway. If it is demolished, as many parts as possible would be used to build a new structure, he said.

Tingey said the walkway was built for about $1 million in 2002.

The city and UDOT would likely pay for the construction of another walkway elsewhere. There is a possibility of moving the structure to 11400 South. UDOT is planning to widen that road along with implementing the I-15 interchange there. Public hearings are slated for the design and construction of the 11400 South project today, Wednesday and Aug. 19. For information, go to www.udot.utah.gov.

Discussions are heating up and the issue could soon come before the South Jordan City Council.

South Jordan Elementary Principal Paul Bergera and the school's community council have issued a letter to the city via the school district.

"How can you weigh any purpose for tearing down the structure against the safety of the kids that use it?" the letter states.

It continues: "With rising gas prices and the resulting pressure that most people feel to drive less and make communities more walkable, deconstructing the walkway would be a clear step backwards."

City officials admit the structure is in good condition. It is free of graffiti and has the city's logo on each side.

"It's a beautiful walkway," said Simone Haight, outgoing community council chairwoman for South Jordan Elementary.

City officials met with the community council July 17 to discuss the walkway issue. The Jordan School Board addressed it during a study session on July 29.

According to Tingey, UDOT began its environmental impact statement to widen 10400 South in 1998. The impact statement included constructing a walkway. However, Jordan district then received funding from the South Jordan Redevelopment Agency that allowed them to build a new school south of the old site. UDOT legally had to stick to its plans, according to the environmental impact statement, so the walkway was built anyway.


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