The Utah Department of Transportation is proposing to convert U.S. 89 into a full freeway in Davis County to connect Interstates 15 and 84.

That preferred alternative in a new draft environmental study released Thursday is designed to relieve severe and worsening congestion on the 10-mile corridor, as well as to improve safety and even speed up east-west traffic that crosses it.

But an opposition group says putting a freeway in what is now almost an entirely residential area will attract commercialization that will ruin communities. Neighbors prefer widening nearby Interstate 15 instead — similar to what happened in Utah County.

And with the proposed U.S. 89 conversion, I-15 and plans to build the West Davis Corridor freeway, “We will have three freeways going through Kaysville separated by about 4.5 miles. That’s a bad plan,” said Greg Ferguson, a member of the opposition Residents‘ Voice United on 89 (ReVU89).

Mike Romero, project director for UDOT, said it is proposing converting U.S. 89 into a freeway between Shepard Lane in Farmington and I-84 in South Weber. He notes U.S. 89 already essentially is a freeway between Shepard Lane and I-15.

U.S. 89 would be widened from a four-lane arterial highway into a six-lane freeway. All traffic-signal intersections would be converted into either freeway interchanges, or grade-separated crossings.

Access to the highway that now exists from some driveways and parking lots would disappear. The project would remove 23 homes, three commercial buildings (two gas stations and a coffee house) and a city water tank.

“It’s going to devastate our communities.”

Greg Ferguson, resident opposed to proposal

The $275 million project is penciled in to begin in the spring of 2019 and finish in the fall of 2021.

Romero stresses that no decisions have been finalized, and that the proposal is the preferred alternative in an environmental study released Thursday. UDOT is accepting public comment through Sept. 25 at utdot.utah.gov/us89, by email at us89@utah.gov or by phoning 888-752-US89.

The agency also scheduled a public hearing on Sept. 7 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Davis Conference Center, 800 Heritage Park Boulevard in Layton.

Romero said without the project, UDOT figures traffic would increase by 20 to 35 percent on the corridor by 2040. “It would take you an hour to get from Shepard Lane up to I-84.”

With planned improvements, Romero said a trip through the corridor in 2040 would take nine to 10 minutes. He added, “We are already operating in failing conditions” with congestion in the area now.

“Most people ask us, ‘What took you so long?’”

Vic Saunders, UDOT spokesman

The project would add full interchanges at Antelope Drive, Gordon Avenue, Oak Hills Drive and 400 North. Grade separated crossings would be added at Crestwood Road and Nicholls Road. An interchange now at Main Street would be modified. Existing interchanges would remain at I-84, South Weber Drive and State Road 193.

But ReVU89, the residents’ group, strongly opposes the proposal.

“It’s going to devastate our communities,” Ferguson said.

“This is a primarily residential area. There’s almost no commercial activity,” he said. “The unfortunate reality when you put a freeway in is that the whole corridor becomes commercialized. Every interchange has a Maverik and a McDonald‘s.”

He notes UDOT for years has been buying up property along the corridor to accommodate such a project. And land that isn’t used for road expansion may go to such commercial projects.

Ferguson also complains that UDOT never completed a full interchange where I-84 and I-15 meet near Ogden, so traffic between I-84 and Salt Lake County — especially large trucks — for years has used U.S. 89 essentially as the best alternative south.

He says it would be wiser to provide a southbound connection at the I-84/I-15 interchange, and widen I-15 — similar to how I-15 was widened recently in Utah County — to make that freeway Davis County’s main transportation corridor.

Ferguson said the new six-lane U.S. 89 freeway would bottleneck into four lanes north of I-84 toward Ogden. He figures that also “will back up traffic over the hill,” and says it is a major flaw in current plans.

Romero said UDOT has listened to such objections and considered them, but felt the current plan is still the best of alternatives.

For example, he acknowledges there is no direct connection south from I-84 onto I-15. But adding it to avoid U.S. 89 would cause trucks “to travel an additional 13.5 miles, so they would be [driving] 23.5 miles compared to 10 miles if they use Highway 89. It would double the distance” — so that has been rejected so far.

Romero said an earlier study in 1996 essentially proposed a freeway through the corridor someday, so UDOT has been buying property to preserve the corridor for that.

“Most people ask us, ‘What took you so long,’” and are excited about improvements — despite some opposition, said UDOT spokesman Vic Saunders.

He added that Davis County has been continuing a trend toward urbanization and increasing population. “We have to respond to that to give people the mobility they need to get where they want to go.”

He said the interchanges and freeway crossing will also help east-west traffic across the highway and restore mobility to what have become divided communities.