Layton • Carl Barney points to a map to show how close his house would sit to a new frontage road, part of a proposal to convert U.S. 89 into a full freeway in Davis County.
“It will be 10 feet from my bedroom window,” he said, shaking his head. “How would you like that? I can’t imagine why they are doing that,” showing that the frontage road would run through his “nice residential neighborhood” instead of close to the freeway.
Barney was among hundreds of concerned residents who swarmed an open house Thursday about the freeway project at the Davis Convention Center — some to protest, some seeking more information and some to support it as a long overdue way to make a dangerous highway more safe.
Vic Saunders, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, estimated that nearly 700 residents came to the open house to talk to officials about plans.
One who was there to protest plans was Mary Miner of Layton. She sees the proposed freeway as destroying a largely rural area while attracting high-speed traffic and more development to her area off Antelope Drive that once “was a haven for squirrels, chipmunks and deer.”
The proposal “shows your way of life is less important than the further development of Utah,” she says. “Nothing will stop this freeway.”
Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, expressed similar concerns. “I just am not certain at this point that a six-lane freeway is exactly what we need. We need some fixes. We need some improvements. But I’m still questioning some of the numbers I’ve been seeing.”
One who came simply seeking more information was Don Thompson of Kaysville.
He’s “worried about sound” from the new freeway in his neighborhood, he said. “UDOT has it penciled in for a sound wall. ... I want to make sure it has that sound wall, or we’re moving.”
One who liked what he sees, and came to support it, was Roy House of Layton.
“It’s overdue” and should make a dangerous highway more safe, he said. “So far, I think UDOT is doing a good job.”
A protest group — Residents’ Voice United on 89 (ReVU89) — set up tables outside the convention center, handed out T-shirts to supporters and urged people with concerns to speak out to court reporters who were taking official comments inside.
“This freeway will be devastating,” said Greg Ferguson, a Kaysville resident and spokesman for ReVU89. He says it will convert a largely rural area with homes and orchards “into a commercial strip” of fast-food stores and gas stations “that every crowded area along a freeway becomes over time.”
He notes that a new freeway plus Interstate 15 and the planned West Davis Corridor freeway would run parallel within a 4.5 mile strip in Kaysville. “We don’t need to have three transportation corridors, each separated by 2 miles.”
Ferguson also said 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 southbound alternative.
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.
ReVU89, Ferguson said, contends that the option of doing that was never fully studied, and instead UDOT mostly looked at converting U.S. 89 into a freeway.
“They didn’t study anything else. So the study is flawed,” he said. “It ought to be invalidated and redone.”
UDOT stresses that no final decisions have been made, but converting U.S. 89 into a freeway is the preferred alternative in a new draft environmental impact study. UDOT will continue to take comments on the project through Sept. 25 at udot.utah.gov/us89, by email to email@example.com or by phone at 888-752-8789.
Saunders said comments largely have been positive. Ferguson questions that assertion, noting that of 465 comments taken at a public hearing earlier this year before the new study was issued, nine were positive.
Mike Romero, project director for UDOT, said without the project, 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. Right now, depending on how you hit the lights, you can do that in 15 minutes or so.”
UDOT is proposing converting U.S. 89 into a freeway in Davis County between I-84 in the north and I-15 in the south. Access to the highway that now exists from some driveways and parking lots would disappear.
The project would remove 23 residences, three commercial buildings (two gas stations and a coffee house) and a city water tank.
The $275 million project is penciled in to begin in spring 2019 and finish in fall 2021.