U.S. 89 upgrade plan, while worrisome to some, won't likely be slowed, many say

Monday , September 11, 2017 - 5:15 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

LAYTON — Though most understand the need, many aren’t entirely happy with the proposed upgrade of U.S. 89 between Farmington and South Weber in northern Davis County.

Whatever the case, Teresa Cutler — upset because her mother would be displaced from her home here to make way for the expanded roadway — isn’t expecting the Utah Department of Transportation to massively overhaul the plans, let alone put on the brakes. “I don’t think there’s any hope,” she said.

RELATED: U.S. 89 upgrade plans edge toward completion, but still draw criticism

Barry Hayden, likewise, figures big tweaks to the plans — which entail adding a third travel lane in each direction and turning the nine-mile U.S. 89 section into a limited-access, freeway-like roadway — are unlikely at this stage.

“When you’re spending this kind of money, I just don’t see where they’re doing a whole lot of changing,” he said.

UDOT held a public hearing Thursday on the U.S. 89 plans at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, drawing hundreds of visitors. The agency called the gathering to collect input from the public and comments — to be accepted until Sept. 25 — will factor in fine-tuning the plans.

Nonetheless, many in attendance, like Cutler and Hayden, figure there’s no stopping the project at this point. The impacted section passes through parts of Farmington, Fruit Heights, Kaysville, Layton and South Weber.

Even Greg Ferguson — helping lead a push to get UDOT to consider more alternatives to the agency’s preferred freeway design  — has his doubts. He and others from Residents’ Voices United on 89, or ReVU 89,which Ferguson helps lead, were demonstrating during Thursday’s gathering outside the Davis Conference Center. 

“That is a question I don’t have a good answer to,” said Ferguson, asked about the prospects of his efforts yielding change. “It’s not going to be easy.”

RELATED: U.S. 89 upgrade plans spur Kaysville man's call for I-15/I-84 improvements

UDOT proposes the upgrade, discussed for years though the most recent plan has come together only in the last few months, to address traffic and population growth. The roadway, connecting the Ogden area, Interstate 84 and the Salt Lake City area, is increasingly congested and traffic is only expected to grow in years to come as more people move to the area.

The $275 million improvement would start in 2019.

“It’s bad. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue the point, that it’s not bad,” said Barry Hayden of Layton, also in attendance.

But many have concerns, and here are a few offered up by some who attended the UDOT hearing:

  • Cutler worries because her mom’s home of 35 years would be demolished to make way for the expanded roadway. Like Ferguson, she wonders if UDOT has considered every alternative and likes the notion of improving the Interstate 15/Interstate 84 crossing instead to draw traffic off U.S. 89, tempering the need for massive change to the highway. Mike Romero, UDOT project manager, said roads officials considered the possibility, but their modeling shows adding connections where the two interstates meets would result in minimal relief to U.S. 89 congestion.
  • Jim Morgan of Fruit Heights would like continued access between U.S. 89 and Nicholls Road, an east-west street that cuts through the city. Access would be eliminated per the upgrade, with a bridge hauling U.S. 89 traffic over Nicholls, and Morgan worries that will create more traffic on side streets in the city as motorists seek other routes to and from U.S. 89.
  • Hayden worries the planned extension of Gordon Avenue from its eastern end point in Layton east to U.S. 89 will result in more auto traffic in front of King Elementary, a potential danger to children walking to school.
  • It’s not the road so much for Carl Wilcox. His Layton house would be demolished to accommodate the U.S. 89 project and he wants more details from UDOT on their plans to acquire the home so he and his wife can plan for the future.

On the flip side, many, even those with reservations, like Morgan, acknowledge the value of the plans.

“To me, they didn’t have many choices but to make a freeway. If they do things right, I think it’ll work,” said Jack Brady of Layton. Among other things, he thinks improvements to east-west roads over U.S. 89, part of the plans, will better unite locales divided by U.S. 89.

James Johnston of South Ogden pointed to the July 26 crash of an airplane on I-15 in Riverdale, which closed the interstate and snarled traffic in the area, including flow on U.S. 89. U.S. 89 needs to be upgraded to create a limited-access reliever road to I-15, he said, “so the traffic can move.”

 Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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