Ann Floor

West Davis Corridor Hearing Draws Crowds and Protest

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June 11, 2013

Deseret News

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue

FARMINGTON — The microphone at a transportation meeting soliciting public comments about the route for the proposed West Davis Corridor received a workout Tuesday evening, as hundreds of people showed up to render their opinions.

“There is no solution that will impact no one and nothing,” said Albert Whipple, a Davis County resident for 50 years. “You have chosen the best available solution. … Not building the road is also not practical.”

That was not the view of many groups and people gathered out front of the Legacy Events Center in protest of the planned highway.

“I believe it is an air quality issue and a land-use issue,” said Carl Ingwell, co-founder of the group Governor We Cannot Breathe. “Utah has already lost 90 percent of its original wetlands. Anything that would further damage wetlands is unacceptable.”

The Utah Department of Transportation has a released an environmental impact study on the proposed highway in western Davis and Weber counties and is holding public hearings and soliciting written comments through the summer.

In its analysis of the project, the agency settled on the Glovers Lane option as its preferred alternative, as opposed to the more easterly route of the Shepard Lane option.

Many residents of the Quail Crossing subdivision in Farmington and west Kaysville who said they would have lost their homes or had their neighborhood ripped apart by the highway for the Shepherd Lane route told UDOT they were grateful.

“The Glovers Lane option makes sense financially and passes the common sense test,” said Neal Geddes, adding that the option moves traffic more efficiently and has the least impact on people and homes.

Another resident who spoke in favor of the Glovers option urged UDOT to finalize its decision so people are no longer held hostage by uncertainty.

“Build it quickly,” said Barry Luecklear. “My life has been on hold. If you are going to do it, make it quick, make it flat and blend it into the existing landscape so we don’t have to hear it and breathe it.”

Many like Luecklear urged UDOT to replicate the Legacy Parkway by imposing a lower speed limit and restricting commercial truck traffic.

The 20-mile route proposed by UDOT begins in Farmington and eventually swings into western Davis and Weber counties, ending in Hooper.

Major east-west arterial routes serving subdivisions and businesses that have proliferated west of I-15 are clogged, and the transportation agency said it’s going to get even worse over the next 30 years.

By 2040, the transportation agency said the population in that northern section of the state will increase by 64 percent, employment will go up by 49 percent, housing by 90 percent and travel delays by 122 percent because of congestion.

Dale Newbold, an engineer, said he’s lived in Davis County “long before there was I-15,” and he remembers when people doubted the need for the north-south route.

“It’s very emotional,” he said, describing the concerns raised over the West Davis Corridor. “People have legitimate concerns, but from a planning standpoint it is essential.”

Critics, however, said the highway will be detrimental for Davis and Weber county residents.

“Highways, freeways, divide communities,” said Salt Lake City resident Roger Borgenicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation. “Boulevard communities bring communities together.”

That organization is working through what Borgenicht described as a rigorous analysis to offer UDOT what is called a “shared solution,” which focuses on making improvements to existing streets and roadways.

The group hopes to present it to the agency as an alternative to any highway that is contemplated.

Two additional open houses and public hearings are scheduled this week: Wednesday at West Point Junior High, 277 W. 550 North, West Point; and Thursday at Freedom Elementary, 4555 W. 5500 South, Hooper.

Each evening includes an informational open house from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and a public hearing from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

UDOT will not release its final analysis until later this year on what route would satisfy transportation and environmental requirements. A final decision on the route, if any, will be made by the Federal Highway Administration in the spring of 2014.

Davis County Commission Supports West Davis Corridor Selection Process

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June 11, 2013

The Salt Lake Tribune

By Pamela Manson

Farmington • Davis County commissioners said at a Tuesday meeting that they support the process the Utah Department of Transportation used to select the preferred route for the new West Davis Corridor freeway, which included gathering public comment at open houses and via email.

Commissioner P. Bret Milburn said the three-member body is not taking sides on which proposed route is better for the corridor but is supporting the way UDOT went about making its route proposal.

The commissioners are finalizing a letter of support to UDOT, which said last month that its preferred route — the northwestern extension of Legacy Parkway — starts at Glover Lane in Farmington, where the new freeway would have an interchange both with Legacy Parkway and Interstate 15. An alternative would have started the freeway farther north at Shepard Lane and avoided routing the new freeway through western Farmington near the Great Salt Lake.

Commission Chair John Petroff Jr. said that UDOT put thousands of hours in choosing a preferred route and did a “tremendous job.” The new freeway is “absolutely necessary” for the county to grow, he said.

But Carl Ingwell, founder of Governor, We Cannot Breathe, a clean air group, encouraged the commissioners to instead support improving existing roads and mass transit to handle area transportation needs.

UDOT, which has said it studied 46 early alternatives during the review process, hopes to make a final decision on routing next year

The agency has scheduled three public hearings this week on its West Davis Corridor proposal. Each will have an open house beginning at 4 p.m., with a formal public hearing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.:

Tuesday » Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 110 West, Farmington. Opponents of the freeway say they will be there to demonstrate against UDOT’s plan.

Wednesday » West Point Junior High, 277 W. 550 North, West Point.

Thursday » Freedom Elementary, 4555 W. 5500 South, Hooper.

West Davis Corridor Protesters Say It’s a ‘Highway to Hell’

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June 11 2013

Salt Lake Tribune

By Lee Davidson

Farmington • Scores of protesters opposing the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway blasted a song Tuesday outside a public hearing to show their opinion of the road: “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.

“It’s a travesty,” said Heather Dove, past president of Great Salt Lake Audubon. “It will ruin wetlands and kill wildlife… The state is showing a 1960s mentality by building more freeways and creating more urban sprawl and pollution, instead of trying to get people off the road” with better transit and smarter design of communities

Dove’s comments and the protest came at the first of three public hearings this week on the proposed freeway, which would become the northwestern extension of the Legacy Parkway through west Davis and Weber counties.

The hearing, attended by several hundred residents, and protest turned into a battle between groups that would either save or lose homes under the currently proposed route — and allies for those sides such as environmental groups who oppose a freeway of any design, or people beyond the ends of the route who say it is needed to improve regional transportation.

“This will destroy my entire way of life,” said Jared Schetselaar, who lives near the proposed southern end of the freeway at Glover Lane in Farmington. The elevated freeway would be literally in his backyard after passing near the side of his home — but not close enough to condemn and buy it.

“It would destroy the value of my home. They don’t pay your for the devaluation of your property, only property they actually take,” he said. “We moved there [eight years ago] to get away from traffic and have a little farm. And now we’ll live by a freeway.”

On the other hand, scores of people who live near Shepherd Lane — which earlier had been considered as the southern end of the freeway — thanked the Utah Department of Transportation for listening to their concerns, and rejecting a interchange there in part because it will save more homes.

Alison Wood, of Kaysville, for example, said at the hearing, “I would like to applaud UDOT for taking the most destructive route out of consideration” at Shepherd Lane. “It is the most complicated, would require the most shifting of traffic, and takes the most houses out.”

Randy Jefferies, project manager for UDOT, said the agency took three years to evaluate 46 alternatives to handle transportation in the region. “The alternative we are recommending has the best transportation performance, best interchange with I-15 and Legacy Parkway, a lower level of disturbance to residents, historic properties and farmlands —and it costs less.”

But Lori Kalt, president of Save Farmington, said UDOT’s figures show that the freeway would be lightly used for years. “I don’t think UDOT has shown the need for a freeway.”

She said that with its $600 million cost, “We could subsidize FrontRunner through 2050 and make it free for everyone” and proposed serious consideration for that, saying it would cut congestion and pollution better.

Brian Moench with Utah Physician for a Healthy Environment said, “Freeways create pollution. Los Angeles is the capital of freeways, and the capital of pollution. Do we want that here?”

Carl Ingwell, founder of the group Governor, We Cannot Breathe, said “The governor is calling for people to drive less to reduce pollution, but UDOT is trying to get people to drive more…. This freeway will lead to stupid growth, not smart growth” by leading to more suburban sprawl.

Janine Creager, of south Farmington, said people in her area will receive heavier traffic and noise, “but we get nothing for it” — not even easy access to the new freeway for the areas it passes near there.

UDOT is taking comments on a draft environmental impact statement that includes its preferred route for the freeway that would be 19.7 miles long, and cost $587 million (in 2012 dollars). It would force relocating 26 homes, directly impact 52 acres of wetlands and 110 acres of prime farmland.

UDOT hopes to make a final decision on routing next year, but no funding sources have been identified for the freeway. However, long range plans envision construction of the first section from Glover Lane to Antelope Drive by 2020, and completion of the rest of the freeway to Hooper by 2030.

Our Opinion: West Davis Highway

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June 1, 2013

Deseret News Editorial

The need for an alternate freeway through northern Davis County into Weber County is compelling, especially to anyone who has to drive that stretch during the daily rush. If growth projections hold true, an additional 100,000 people will move into that area by 2040, making the need even more apparent.

But freeways carry tolls beyond the price of construction, which in this case is estimated at just below $600 million. That is especially true when they are built in an area as environmentally sensitive as the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake.

After considering 46 options for locating the West Davis Highway, the Utah Department of Transportation has chosen its preferred route and now has opened a 90-day period for public review and comment. It hopes to make a final decision on the route and construction details by the spring of 2014. After that, it needs to find money for construction, which could come from federal or state governments, or a combination of the two.

But while the public mulls the preferred route across sparsely populated areas of Davis County, all involved need to consider some questions.

The freeway would be an extension of the Legacy Parkway in southern Davis County. Utahns had to endure years of expensive legal wrangling in the construction of that portion, as environmentalists won a key court battle challenging the state’s original plans.

That led to a compromise that resulted in rules prohibiting commercial truck traffic and billboards, requiring construction of a nature preserve to mitigate environmental impacts, the imposition of speed restrictions at a maximum of 55 mph and the use of special noise-reducing asphalt.

While we understand the state has yet to finalize its plans, why haven’t these compromise conditions been transferred to the new route? Given the costs imposed by delays in Legacy’s construction, will the state do all it can to satisfy all sides before embarking on the new extension?

Chief among the valid concerns about the West Davis Highway is how noise levels might affect the bird species that use both low-lying wetlands and uplands as resting points along their migratory paths. What will the state do to ensure these migratory behaviors, so important to the ecosystem, are not disturbed?

Presumably the highway will push development to the west. What are cities along the route doing to ensure that zoning laws include environmental concerns?

When it comes to funding, why do state officials shy away from variable tolls? A toll way would provide money for construction and upkeep from the people who use the road, and a variable toll, in which the amount charged changes according to traffic conditions, would encourage people to travel more during off-peak hours, thus further reducing congestion.

State officials say the preferred route would result in 26 houses and five businesses being relocated, with the possibility of up to five more houses being added to that list. In addition, 110 acres of prime farmland and 52 acres of wetlands would be affected.

Unfortunately, there are no easy ways in which to erect a freeway. We wish local communities, which must have known the highway one day was coming, would have been more careful in allowing construction to spread west in recent years.

The state argues its figures show the highway would reduce traffic congestion in the area by 60 percent. Projections, however, depend on future residents acting in fairly similar ways to how people act today. A group of concerned residents and interest groups has developed an alternative they say relies on local communities to develop wider boulevards and innovative intersections to make neighborhoods more self-sustained, as well as to increase mass transit options.

That option may be worthwhile with or without the new highway. However, it isn’t likely to solve the problems that frequently arise when I-15 is overcrowded or closed due to an accident.

Answers don’t come easy. But a thorough and cooperative planning process among all involved is the best bet for an effective solution to this traffic puzzle.

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Birds, the Moon and the West Davis Highway

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May 26, 2013

Deseret News

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue

LAYTON — It is here on a May morning that the grasses, trees and ponds are whipped to movement by the wind, and there is a smattering of silence.

The silence is a loud series of contradictions to its location in Davis County’s largest city of 70,000 people, with high-speed commuter rail just four miles away and a six-lane interstate just beyond that.

As motorists hasten along I-15 and young mothers take a morning exercise walk pushing children in strollers, Rachel LeBlanc stands still in this pastoral place, her eyes scanning the reeds and grasses around the pond.

She’s counting birds, noting species, and in the occasional quiet, there is a consonance of bird songs that erupts. It is followed by silence, and the songs begin again.

LeBlanc is one of roughly a dozen volunteers taking part in the first comprehensive bird survey at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve that will forge a scientific analysis of how many species frequent both the low-lying wetlands and the adjacent uplands, or drier areas, equally important to birds.

On this day, she spies a yellow-headed blackbird, pelicans and California gulls. It is where she has seen the Red Knot sandpiper, which can fly the equivalent of the distance from Earth to the moon and halfway back in its lifetime. This is where it occasionally seeks a timeout.

The preserve represents a decades-long prize achieved through a collaborative effort spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy in Utah. It is an ecological testimony to a land acquisition here and a land acquisition there, until ultimately 45 parcels were knitted together to become the more than 4,400 acres of land that traces the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake.

It is, in fact, the largest protected, natural piece of land this side of the Great Salt Lake and is threatened — at least in some part — by the planned West Davis Corridor.

Whatever route the Utah Department of Transportation may ultimately settle on for the west Davis County highway that would stretch into Weber County, there will be impacts to the preserve.

The bird count, which started in April and continues through mid-September, will supply data and accompany The Nature Conservancy’s comments during the environmental review process launched this month.

Chris Montague, director of the conservancy’s conservation programs, is the first to say the organization is no expert on transportation planning and is not conducting the count to kill the highway. Its members don’t plan to chain themselves to bulldozers.

“We want (transportation officials) to know exactly what they are impacting on our property so they can fully mitigate those impacts,” Montague said.

Chris Brown, who manages the preserve and is over stewardship efforts for the group, said too often the emphasis is solely on protecting wetlands, while the adjacent uplands are ignored.

There are shoreline birds that can’t fly when they are wet, he explained. They forage for spiders and other bugs in the dry grasses and reeds, where they may also nest. The vitality of wetlands is companion to the health of its accompanying uplands — all of which fit into the same system, Brown said.

“You take away the uplands, and it is like death by a thousand cuts,” he said.

The preserve is part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, which is an annual stopover for millions of migratory birds. Brown likened the stop along the migratory fly-way as a roadside motel for weary travelers who need to rejuvenate before taking that last leg of a journey.

Although some migratory birds have the ability to fly while they sleep by shutting down half their brain, a long break on the trek from South America to the Arctic is necessary.

“Some birds double their weight while they are here,” Brown said, adding that a corn field is in danger of being lost because of the highway.

“We planted it for the sandhill cranes, but is a big cafe for a lot of birds,” he said.

Brown worries about the inevitable impacts that will come from not only the freeway, but the noise, light, vibrations and pollution. All will have some carryover effect to the winged guests and entrenched feathered residents.

Both Brown and Montague want the transportation agency to accept their survey late this summer and use all available information to make sound decisions on reducing those impacts.

Examples could include protecting areas not in the preserve, restoring areas that need help or purchasing much-needed water for The Nature Conservancy. Water is a major component in the organization’s conservation efforts, and at this preserve, five man-made ponds provide liquid respite for their guests.

During this count at a pond and adjacent area being done by LeBlanc, the Herriman resident documents two adult Canadian geese and 22 young chicks. It is unusual for this species to have that many young, so LeBlanc muses it is a communal group.

“Those two are taking care of all the young for the others,” she said. “They’re baby-sitting.”

To witness such stories in nature is part of what propelled LeBlanc to get into birding and to volunteer for this survey, she said.

LeBlanc doesn’t mind that it means standing and intense scrutiny for hours at a time, listening with a trained ear and using cameras to capture the image of a rare bird that stops in.

“I love birds,” she said. “I’ve been doing birding for decades.”

The volunteers are paired up and set loose at six randomly picked sites that are a quarter mile in radius. They commit to spend four to five hours a week through late summer to document the species that come to the preserve.

They pick the morning hours and methodically take notes.

With cows and quiet as companions, LeBlanc said she looks forward to her volunteer work with The Nature Conservancy.

“These days we are so stressed out and spread so thin, it is nice to come out and be in nature and spiritually connect,” she said.

As farm fields inevitably give way to homes and other development in the coming decades, LeBlanc and her companions at The Nature Conservancy feel the preserve will be the last big chunk of open space that remains in Davis County.

And that, they say, should matter on some level.

“As a society, we have to make a decision,” she said. “Do we leave some of these areas alone? Once this is paved over, it will never go away.”

West Davis Corridor Project Unveiled Amid Criticism

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May 17, 2013

Deseret News

By Jasen Lee

KAYSVILLE — Forty-six options were narrowed to two. Those two were narrowed to one. And now the plan for a 24-mile expansion of Lagacy Parkway in Davis County is under scrutiny with the Thursday release of a UDOT study measuring its impacts.

The Parkway would extend from Centerville to Marriott-Slaterville in western Weber County between the Great Salt Lake and I-15. UDOT’s preferred option is the Glovers Lane route, extending from Farmington in Davis County to 4100 West in Weber County, a plan state officials said provides the fewest harmful impacts.

But civic leaders in Davis County are concerned the recommended route will provide little advantage for their community. And others blast the plan as shortsighted when a comprehensive transportation plan would serve the communities better.

Farmington Mayor Scott Harbertson said because the proposed option offers no convenient access through his city, the project would likely be detrimental.

“It does nothing for Farmington,” he said. “It just becomes a major highway through our city. It does not give us any benefit or advantage whatsoever.”

He said his community would be better served by the option that utilized Shepard Lane to the north rather than Glovers Lane.

“That would have been great access. Easy on, easy off,” he said. “It would have alleviated traffic concerns on Park Lane. But if you’re travelling southbound on the West Davis Corridor (as recommended), you bypass Farmington.”

Harbertson said he is a proponent of the corridor and said the highway is needed. “But what we were fighting and hoping for was a little more benefit for Farmington,” he said.

UDOT released the Draft Environmental Impact Study with the expectation of getting plenty of feedback during the required 90-day comment period. A final decision is expected by spring 2014.

Among the impacts:

The new route would require that 26 households be relocated, as well as five businesses. An additional five residences and an additional business could also be relocated, the UDOT plan indicates.

The suggested route would impact 110 acres of prime farmland and 52 acres of high-quality wetlands.

Cost or the project is an estimated $587 million. Funding for the project would come from either federal highway funds or could be funded using state monies.

“Currently, there is no funding for construction,” Randy Jefferies, UDOT project manager for the West Davis Corridor, said, noting the project could be constructed in phases. Completion of the project depends on funding.

Jefferies said the preferred alternative has some clear advantages in serving the greatest volume of traffic and providing the most effective interchange with I-15 and Legacy Parkway.

The plan also has the lowest level of impact on homes, farmland and businesses compared to the other alternatives, Jefferies said.

“This alternative has minimal impact to high quality wetlands and meets all air quality standards set by the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency),” he said. “Overall, this alternative met the transportation needs the best with the least overall level of impact.”

He said the population along the corridor is expected to grow from 150,000 people to 250,000 people by 2040 with the number of homes in the area expected to double during the period.

He said without the West Davis Corridor project, traffic congestion during that period is anticipated to grow 375 percent. The Glovers Lane alternative would reduce congestion by 60 percent, making a significant impact, he said.

“We have very seriously considered these alternatives and made our recommendation,” Jefferies said. “We know it affects thousands of lives and affects the environment as well, so we want to get it right.”

UDOT has faced harsh criticism by opponents of the project.

This month a coalition of groups issued a joint declaration in support of what they call the “shared solution” and urged that the alternative be given fair consideration.

Distributed to the governor’s office, UDOT, the Utah division of the Federal Highway Administration and multiple Utah lawmakers, the “shared solution” embraced several components, including emphasis on locally focused roadway design.

According to Roger Borgernicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation, the plan also calls for innovative intersections and “boulevard community development” that incorporates housing, retail and employment on any given stretch of roadway.

He said the value in boulevard communities is that they reduce vehicle miles traveled by placing housing, jobs and services close to each other — something this latest proposal fails to accomplish.

“We should do ‘smart sequencing’ of a shared solution for future mobility, looking at cars, looking at transit, looking at bicycling and looking at communities that allow walking to some (destinations),” Borgernicht said. “A balanced transportation approach that leads to shared solutions.

He said the coalition preferred that the environmental impact study not been issued because the group’s shared solution would be a much more reasonable alternative than building another highway.

Farmington City Manager David Millheim said he was disappointed with UDOT’s recommendation but he stopped short of criticism.

“I may not agree with every nuanced interpretation, but I think (UDOT) is trying really hard to explain why the road is needed,” Millheim said. “I’m not going to throw stones at the process at this point because everyone is working hard to try to navigate a very difficult minefield.”

He offered support for the proposal to develop the roadway to mitigate projected growth along the corridor, but also noted that the development process must be conducted in a fair and equitable fashion for all involved.

“This highway is very important,” he said. “We want to make sure the (recommended) route is the smartest route.”

Comments on the proposal can by posted online at UDOT has scheduled three public hearings on the proposal. Each is from 6 to 9 p.m.

June 11 at the Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 110 West, Farmington.

June 12 at West Point Jr. High, 277 W. 550 North, West Point.

June 13 at Freedom Elementary, 4555 W. 5500 South, Hooper.

Green Activists, Neighbors Blast New West Davis Freeway Plan

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May 16, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune

By Lee Davidson

The Utah Department of Transportation on Thursday unveiled its preferred route for the new West Davis Corridor freeway — the northwestern extension of Legacy Parkway — that it says will best reduce congestion, be least expensive and have fewer impacts to existing homes, farms and wetlands.

But community and environmental groups blasted the plan, saying it will ruin rural neighborhoods and harm wildlife and wetlands. They argue the project is not needed and will help only developers as it leads to more urban sprawl.

UDOT proposes to start the new freeway at Glover Lane in Farmington, where it would have an interchange both with Legacy Parkway and Interstate 15. That is a couple miles south of the existing northern end of Legacy where it connects with I-15 and U.S. 89.

A different alternative would have started the freeway farther north at Shepard Lane and avoided routing the new freeway through western Farmington near the Great Salt Lake. But UDOT says the Shepard Lane alternative would have required removing more homes and was more complicated and expensive.

The preferred alternative also will follow closely Bluff Road as it travels northwest through Syracuse, instead of an alternative farther west nearer the Great Salt Lake. It will turn straight north and follow roughly 4100 West through West Point and Clinton to about 5500 South in Hooper.

A new four-volume, 1,444-page draft environmental impact statement predicts the route will cost $587 million (in 2012 dollars, including land acquisition), be 19.7 miles long, force relocating 26 homes and five businesses; and directly impact 52 acres of wetlands and 110 acres of prime farmland.

Low impact » That route “has clear advantages in serving the most traffic throughout the corridor,” said Randy Jefferies, UDOT’s West Davis Corridor project manager. “It also has low impacts to homes, businesses, parks and historic properties. It has lower impacts to farmland … with minimal impact on high-quality wetlands.”

He says the study figures the new freeway will reduce traffic congestion in west Davis and Weber counties by 60 percent from what it would otherwise be in 2040. UDOT will accept public comment on that study and preferred route for 90 days before making final decisions sometime next year.

Jefferies said the Glover Lane option provides more land for the interchange with I-15 and Legacy than would Shepard Lane. “This allowed us to have a conventional-type interchange with a single ramp for every movement and direction.”


He added, “In Farmington, Glover Lane has no [home] relocations. Shepard Lane has 10.”

But Bruce Bassett says his home near Glover Lane will be ruined and is frustrated that UDOT will not acknowledge that. He says UDOT told him the planned interchange will put roadways within 15 feet of two sides of his home.

“They say they don’t have to take the structure if they can stay 15 feet away from the house,” he said. “My septic tank and my drain field are beyond that 15 feet. They still refuse to take that house. … I believe they have some political motivation to keep that number [of announced removals] at zero” to push UDOT’S preferred alternative.

Ashley Graves, who also lives in the Glover Lane area, said the freeway will be 95 feet from her house. UDOT officials once told her that condemnation and buying it may be an option, she said, but more recently at a public meeting said “you have to be within 15 feet to be considered. … They are going to do whatever the heck they want.”

Backyard freeway » Lori Kalt, president of Save Farmington, which opposes the Glover Lane option, said the freeway will destroy her quiet, rural area near Glover Lane.

“You’ve got a big freeway in your backyard. Your western views are gone. You’ve got noise pollution, air pollution,” she said. “This is no Legacy Parkway. … There’s no restrictions on billboards. There’s no plans for noise mitigation.”

Legacy Parkway has restrictions on truck traffic and billboards, lower speed limits and special noise-reducing pavement.

Environmental groups are unhappy with the state’s plan, too.

“This is simply another attempt by UDOT to facilitate sprawl and real-estate development, perpetuating its own choice to make west Davis County like the city of Los Angeles,” said Tim Wagner, national representative of the Sierra Club.

Heather Dove, president of Great Salt Lake Audubon, said it will “be very bad for wildlife and wetlands.” She said the extra noise, light and air pollution will interfere with lands used by 5 million birds that migrate through the area.

Roger Borgenicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation, said the freeway is simply not needed.

Projections show that in 2040, the freeway would be used only between 20 and 40 percent of capacity, he said, while other nearby east-west routes would be over capacity. He believes UDOT should focus on those instead.

Jefferies disputes those numbers and says projections show road sections would be at between 48 and 88 percent capacity in 2040.

Environmental and community groups last week urged UDOT to delay releasing its environmental impact statement to allow looking into avoiding the new freeway by instead improving existing roads and mass transit to handle area transportation needs.

Jefferies said UDOT had already studied such proposals among 46 early alternatives that were narrowed during the review process, but it found the freeway is the best way to handle future needs. Borgenicht said UDOT has never seriously looked at the proposal the groups are making now.

“This is a recommendation, not a final decision,” Jefferies said, adding that UDOT will closely review all suggestions submitted during the 90-day comment period. “We know that this affects thousands of people’s lives and it affects the environment. We do not treat that lightly.”

While UDOT hopes to make a final decision on routing next year, no funding sources have been identified for the freeway. However, long-range plans envision construction of the first section from Glover Lane to Antelope Drive by 2020, and completion of the rest by 2030.

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: Rethink Freeway

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May 10, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune

A freeway to carry heavy traffic north and south though west Davis County has been on Utah Department of Transportation drawing boards for years. The agency is ready to release its draft environmental impact study and name its preferred route.

But the best alignment may be no alignment at all.

Things have changed since UDOT first started looking at routes for what is now Legacy Parkway, connecting Farmington to Salt Lake City, and its eventual extension northward.

Urban planning has evolved with the construction of light and heavy rail. Planners and residents see the value of creating transit-oriented residential and commercial development that reduces the need for people to commute long-distance. The drawn-out legal battles over construction of Legacy Parkway highlighted the impacts of freeways on wildlife and wetlands and created a greater appreciation for a philosophy of “less is more” when it comes to building highways.

Not least among the impacts are those affecting folks who live in western Davis County, where subdivisions have replaced acres of farmland and open space. A 24-mile, 250-foot-wide elevated highway would divide the communities and neighborhoods it would have to cut through.

Legal challenges to Legacy Parkway eventually were resolved with requirements for a lower-speed, more environmentally friendly roadway with a bike path and without trucks and billboards. But the west Davis corridor highway would be a big, fast, noisy, billboard-marked freeway hurtling all kinds of traffic through what are now quiet residential neighborhoods.

The freeway could also damage 120 acres of irreparable and irreplaceable wildlife along the Great Salt Lake shoreline. And facilitating more driving would add to Utah’s unhealthy air pollution. A highway on the western edge of the county would require residents to drive west and then south, hardly in keeping with the state’s campaign to reduce driving. Moreover, traffic modeling for 2040 shows little need for this expensive behemoth.

A coalition of residents’ advocacy groups and organizations formed to protect wildlife and wetlands have what sounds like a better idea. They want UDOT to consider shelving the highway plan in favor of a better system of east-west connectors focusing on transit hubs with innovative interchanges and express lanes to maximize access to the existing freeway system and emphasize walkable communities where people would live closer to where they work.

It’s an excellent idea. Freeways only encourage sprawl and long-distance commuting, neither of which Utah needs


Critics Push for Alternative to West Davis Highway

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May 7, 2013

Deseret News

Amy Joi O’Donoghue

SYRACUSE — Critics of the West Davis highway say Utah’s transportation agency has its head stuck in the last century with its plans to build the corridor through the heart of farming country, wetlands and communities that will have to choke on the exhaust from tailpipes.

“The days of big freeway building are over, but apparently not here,” said Roger Borgenicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation.

Multiple groups, including the Sierra Club, the Great Salt Lake Audubon and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, staged a news conference Tuesday on the grounds of Syracuse Arts Academy, which would abut one the alternative routes under consideration.

“The Utah Department of Transportation has created a false dilemma by giving people two bad choices,” said Todd Jenson, with Attorneys for Clean AIR & Environment. “In doing so, they pit community against community and people against each other.”

The proposed project is a 24-mile expansion of Legacy Parkway that would run from Centerville to Marriott-Slaterville in western Weber County between the Great Salt Lake and I-15. UDOT is currently considering two location options for the corridor, the Glovers Lane option in Farmington and Shepherd Lane option in Kaysville.

The transportation agency is slated to release its draft environmental impact statement next week and presumably settle on one of the route alternatives.

Jenson and others say those two alternatives force either choosing an option that rips up wetlands and farms or takes out families’ homes, neighborhoods and businesses.

The coalition of groups issued a joint declaration Tuesday in support of what they call the “shared solution” and urged that the alternative be given fair consideration as well.

Distributed to the governor’s office, UDOT, the Utah division of the Federal Highway Administration and multiple Utah lawmakers, the “shared solution” embraces several components, including emphasis on locally focused roadway design. The “solution” also calls for innovative intersections and “boulevard community development” that incorporates housing, retail and employment on any given stretch of roadway.

Borgenicht said the value in boulevard communities is that they reduce vehicle miles traveled by placing housing, jobs and services close to each other.

UDOT’s proposed West Davis highway fails in that regard in that it is not planned near any light-rail stations or bus stops, promotes urban sprawl and does not foster economic growth, said Lori Kalt, president of

“It brings tons of air pollution — air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution and sound and visual pollution,” Kalt said. “This is no Legacy Parkway.”

The group said the highway proposal flies in the face of the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s 2040 Plan’s primary goals — to promote increased mobility with mass transportation.

Rather than focus on new highways, the group said UDOT should take care of the roads and highways it already has and focus on improving arterial routes that could decrease congestion and curb air pollution.

Tracy Silva, another opponent at Tuesday’s event, said she has already noticed problems with her breathing after moving to the state nearly eight years ago.

“In the years spent here, enduring the inversions, I have felt a decrease in the health of my breathing,” the Syracuse resident said. “I can’t even begin to imagine how much worse it could become with this freeway.”

Silva said she organized a petition signed by 141 parents asserting that if the freeway goes in next to Syracuse Arts Academy, they will pull their children from the school.

Dr. Courtney Henley, with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said pollution levels jump 20 to 30 times higher next to freeway than in a general community, giving rise to an assortment of severe health consequences, including asthma, stroke and developmental disease.

“The studies are irrefutable,” Henley said.

UDOT spokesman John Gleason said the environmental study due to be released is just one step in a long review of the proposal, which is subject to modification along the way.

Gleason said one of the options on the table is no highway.

“There is really no final decision until after we have all of these public meetings where we encourage community input and take into account all the feedback,” he said.

A final decision will not be made until 2014, Gleason said.



Groups Vow to Fight Proposed West Davis Corridor Freeway

Posted by | 2013, News Coverage | No Comments

May 7, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune

By Lee Davidson

SYRACUSE • A dozen environmental and community groups joined Tuesday to oppose the proposedWest Davis Corridor freeway — the northwestern expansion of the Legacy Parkway — just a week before state officials are scheduled to announce their preferred route for the project after years of controversy.

The groups say little demand exists for a freeway in rural western Davis and Weber counties, and say projections show it would be used at only 50 percent capacity by 2040. They say it would divert money from truly needed transportation projects, create more urban sprawl and pollution, ruin neighborhoods and damage wetlands and wildlife.

“When the state is in dire need of money for health care and education,” and reducing east-west transportation problems in the two counties, “Let’s do that before we build a new freeway … that isn’t needed and spend $650 million,” Tim Wagner, national representative of the Sierra Club, said at a press conference.

It could be a prelude to recurrence of earlier nasty legal battles over the 11.5-mile Legacy Parkway. A lawsuit by environmental groups halted its construction and, after years of delay, forced a more environmentally friendly redesign that included extensive wetlands protection, a trail system, lower speed limits and a ban on large trucks and billboards.

Wagner and Roger Borgenicht, a co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation, said it is too early to talk about legal challenges to the West Davis Corridor. But they called on the Utah Department of Transportation to delay next week’s planned release of a draft environmental impact statement, including naming its preferred route.

They asked UDOT to slow down to study a proposal by the groups to discard plans for a freeway, and instead improve transportation in the area through more reliance on mass transit, using innovative interchange designs and express lanes to resolve east-west congestion and focusing on creating more walkable communities where people live, work and play in the same area and need to drive less. Details of some of these ideas are online at

UDOT spokesman John Gleason said UDOT still plans to release the study next week. But he said UDOT will then listen to public concerns before making any final decisions next year.

“We welcome their feedback and input,” Gleason said. “No final decisions have been made” on the 24-mile extension of the freeway.

“The days of building big freeways is over in most communities, but not here,” Borgenicht complained.

Community groups also argued a freeway would hurt and divide their neighborhoods.

ny speed restrictions or restrictions on truck traffic, no restrictions on billboards, no sound-reducing pavement, no plans for sound walls, nothing. There will be many impacts,” said Lori Kalt, president of the Save Farmington citizens group.

Syracuse resident Tracy Sylva said, “I have seen how this freeway will not only divide our city” with a 14-foot elevated roadway that is 250 feet wide, “but is dividing friendships.” She said different parts of town push different routes in hopes of saving their own homes, but forcing removal of others.

Heather Dove, president of Great Salt Lake Audubon, said the highway could directly affect more than 120 acres of Great Salt Lake wetland habitat, and “bisect the most common north-south flyway approach of numerous large birds. These are birds that need expansive open habitat for low-flight hunting, landing and take-off.”

She said it could disrupt aquifers, create pollution from runoff and car exhaust. “It will result in large-scale devastating permanent impacts to critical Great Salt Lake shore land habitat, which will be irreversible into perpetuity. It will change forever the natural character of the Great Salt Lake.”

Other groups that joined to oppose the freeway included: Citizens for a Better Syracuse, Attorneys for Clean Air and Environment, Great Salt Lake Alliance, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, University of Utah Student Clean Air Network, Western Resource AdvocatesUtah Birders and the clean-air group Governor, We Cannot Breathe.