West Davis alternative would ditch the highway

Posted by | 2014, News Coverage, Uncategorized | No Comments

Instead of building the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway, officials are studying converting existing arteries into boulevards — some with through-traffic lanes in the middle, separated by tree-lined medians from outside lanes just for local access.

That is part of a “shared solution” alternative that claims such boulevards — along with better signal timing, more lanes and innovative intersection designs that limit left turns — will “allow users to drive slower but travel faster.”

The Shared Solution Coalition, which has said such options are better than the proposed controversial freeway, has just finished putting meat on the skeleton of its early proposals. The Utah Department of Transportation has posted those details online at udot.utah.gov/westdavis.

UDOT has moved back its schedule a couple times for deciding whether to build the freeway in order to consider that “shared solution” after opposition arose over the agency’s proposed preferred alternative for a 19.7-mile, $587 million freeway that would be a northwestern extension of the Legacy Parkway.

Some federal agencies complained the freeway would destroy too many Great Salt Lake wetlands, and a variety of community groups said it may displace too many homes or create more urban sprawl. Several of them called jointly for consideration of the “shared alternative” instead.

Randy Jefferies, project manager for UDOT, says the agency hopes to complete its initial screening of the now-better defined “shared solution” by the end of the year.

“Now that the alternative has been developed, we need to determine whether it meets the purposes and needs” of reducing projected future congestion sufficiently, he said. If the alternative passes that threshold, it would move to a second level of study about its impacts and costs.

Jefferies said UDOT once had 46 alternatives for the freeway, and they all went through such initial screening — and a handful advanced for additional study on their impacts.

The current schedule calls for UDOT to approve a final Environmental Impact Statement and choose its final alternative next spring — but Jefferies said that will be delayed if the “shared solution” moves to a second-level of screening, or even more detailed study later.

Newly posted details of the shared solution call for a grid system of new boulevards along existing major arteries in west Davis County, addition of bus rapid transit routes, incentives to increase use of mass transit and design of walkable, mixed-use communities along boulevards that would reduce the need for vehicle travel by having people live, work and play in the same area.

“In most cases, boulevard enhancements, including increasing the number of travel lanes, can be achieved within the existing right-of-way by re-purposing existing wide shoulders,” the proposal says.

It calls for expansion of protected bike lanes physically separated from normal traffic lanes, and for improvements for pedestrians.

It also calls for incentives to attract more transit riders, including building bus rapid transit lines along some of the boulevards, improved fare structures, peak-hour priority bus lanes, suburban shuttles to FrontRunner trains, and improved park-and-ride options.

“I think for the most part, the things that have been developed have been great ideas,” Jefferies said, adding these changes could help improve transportation in the area no matter what the final decision is on the freeway or the shared solution.

“These ideas that are on the table for discussion” will help as “Utah tries to be one of the states that focuses on active transportation with pedestrians and bicyclists. We also want to look at how we can increase transit ridership. So I think all these ideas have promise,” he said