A scheduled city improvement project has divided a north Orem neighborhood against itself.
At a City Council meeting last week, a group of 75 residents spoke against building a bridge to continue Main Street over a canal at 18th North. At a meeting Tuesday, a group of about 30 spoke in favor of the project with equal fervor."I never thought our friends and neighbors west of the canal would be so selfish as to resist the completion of Main Street," said Albert Winkler, group spokesman. "I am personally hurt and shocked."
Last week, Vern Henshaw, spokesman for residents opposing the bridge, said extending Main would bring more traffic into the area, increasing danger to about 200 children under the age of 10.
City officials believe the bridge will decrease traffic near Northridge Elementary School and open the area to emergency vehicles.
Henshaw gave the City Council a letter saying residents had purchased houses in the area partly because of the seclusion it offered. Henshaw said that, in addition to increased and possibly faster traffic, extending the street would increase noise and property values would drop, diminishing the quality of life for residents.
He said a bridge offering drivers an alternate route through the area would not diminish traffic near Northridge Elementary School, because most of the traffic is parents dropping their children off at the school.
Henshaw said emergency vehicles already have access to the area, and the bridge would cut travel time by only 10 or 15 seconds. This is not enough of a benefit to justify spending the $125,000 Orem has budgeted for the project, he said.
Tuesday night, Winkler did his best to shoot down all of Henshaw's arguments.
"We all knew the score when we moved into our neighborhoods," he said. "We knew Main Street in Orem would be completed past 18th North. We have watched the traffic situation worsen significantly in front of Northridge Elementary and along 50 East."
Winkler said the only consideration should be the safety of area children, and he said that would be best served by continuing Main over the canal. He believes the move will lessen traffic around the school.
"The 1,115 students must come and go from the school at least twice, meaning they will be at risk twice a day," he said. "A conservative estimate would state that there are 2,500 opportunities for a child to get hurt each day, not counting the many evening and weekend activities at the school."
Winkler said property values will stay high because of the neighborhood's "nearness to schools, churches and the Timpanogos Research Park."
As for the inconvenience of more traffic near their houses and increased noise, Winkler said they are a price residents should be willing to pay.
"Is it too much to expect that those who live on Main Street be willing to accept their moral responsibility to help assure the safety of so many innocent children?" he asked.
He argued that keeping the slower route for emergency vehicles is irresponsible too.
Lynn Brayson, another area resident, agreed.
"With cars parked on both sides of Main, a fire truck could still pass. It couldn't on 50 East, the current through street.
"I was worried last winter to see glazed-over streets with 1,115 children darting between cars. The strongest voice for the bridge is the schoolchildren.
"I am shocked that my neighbors would oppose a plan to protect their children," he said.
The continuation of Main has been part of Orem's master plan for the last 10 or 15 years, said Daryl Berlin, city manager. The money was budgeted in the 1988-89 budget approved in June. The issue will be further discussed in a July 12 council meeting.