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Green activists, neighbors blast new West Davis freeway plan

Published May 16, 2013 6:42 pm

State says route will have least impact on wetlands and homes; residents, environmentalists disagree.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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. —

Public hearings on corridor plan

UDOT has scheduled three public hearings 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.:

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

June 12 • West Point Junior High, 277 W. 550 North, West Point

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

UDOT will also take comments for 90 days via email at westdavis@utah.gov; online at udot.utah.gov/westdavis; and by regular mail to 466 N. 900 West, Kaysville, UT 84037