The state's preferred alignment for the north-south freeway through the western Salt Lake Valley is along 5800 West, passing five elementary schools plus Hunter High School and Hunter Junior High. Prior to offering its resolution, the board had received impassioned pleas from air-quality advocates who said new research shows placing school kids near freeways puts them at risk for respiratory and other illnesses.
Board members agreed that the issue is especially pressing because some children would spend all of their primary and secondary educations in view or earshot of what may be an eight-lane road through West Valley City.
"It is daunting when you go out there and realize how close this is to an elementary school," board vice president Julene Jolley said. "If the [freeway] corridor were already there, we would not even consider putting a school there."
The corridor passes within 500 meters of five schools - the distance studied in health research regarding kids - and across the campuses of two.
UDOT project manager Teri Newell has repeatedly said the freeway would meet all air-quality standards, and that the department is watching for the results of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on children and freeways. West Valley City Mayor Dennis Nordfelt has supported the 5800 West Corridor over a 7200 West alternative, and said he believes getting currently logjammed traffic flowing more freely should actually decrease air pollution from idling engines.
Part of the state's problem with the potential 7200 West route has been that it crosses more protected wetlands and would require the purchase and demolition of more homes. The school board found those arguments hollow compared to their duty to children.
"I can't help but ask myself, are we more concerned with wetlands or with our children," board member Gayleen Gandy said.
The board agreed to send copies of its resolution asking for an alternate route to UDOT, the governor and the legislators elected from within the district.