Bluff Street road construction plans could relocate businesses (OPINION)

bluff street road work could relocate businesses
Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Dallas Hyland is a developing columnist for St. George News and blogs as The Amateur Broad Thinker. The opinions stated in this article are solely his own and not those of St. George News.

What do you think of when the words “freeway interchange” are mentioned? Heavy traffic volume? Overpasses? Mediums of transport in metropolitan cities?

Now, what would you think if someone told you such a “freeway” was being proposed for the stretch of road from Interstate 15 to Sunset, currently known as Bluff Street?

If your reaction was like mine, it was one of disbelief. Surely this is some bloated conspiracy theory from some over zealous citizens concerned about all the repaving construction going on in the night hours on Bluff.

But according to Richard Kohler, a retired traffic engineer in St. George, this is precisely what is in the works.

On September 19, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, headed by a St. George Council member, held what was being presented as an open-to-the-public forum where the proposal for this estimated $85 million dollar project was heard; and had it not met some opposition from Kohler, might already be in the environmental impact study phase of seeing this project to fruition.

According to Kohler, the project would include, but not be limited to: widening the road from its present width of 85 feet to 132 feet, building an interchange at Red Hills Parkway, and grade separated structures at St. George Blvd and Sunset. That’s under pass and over pass structures at Bluff and Sunset.

Kohler agrees with the notion that some foresight into the future of the city includes traffic volume accommodations on Bluff, but maintains this project is excessively expensive and wasteful. It is overkill.

According to UDOT, they are conducting a study to evaluate the 1.7 miles on Bluff Street from St. George Boulevard to Red Hills Parkway. UDOT currently has eight proposals on their website, most of which include an overpass, seven lanes and business relocation plans.

This is nothing short of a backdoor approach to eventually making Bluff Street a freeway and this has devastating implications for businesses and residences on the road.

Not only will it affect accessibility to the businesses and residences, it will also, in some cases, require the eminent domain card to be pulled because some opposition to this project is likely.

It is fair and prudent to be asking at this point which businesses and homes would be on the slate for relocation or removal?

Would the homes across from Starbucks on Sunset be in the way of this proposed widening of highway, or would they take out just the bike path and part of the Starbucks parking lot?

Would said businesses be compensated or would eminent domain be the trump card?

What about new comers both residential and commercial? Did Kneaders on Bluff know it would be facing this potential change in accessibility to its business?

A project of this magnitude and scale needs to be proactive, if not insistent, in informing people about these and other affects of their growth initiatives. Especially since they are not going to make sense.

In 2010, the average daily traffic was at 42,000 according to the Utah Department of Transportation but in 2005, it was 45,000. UDOT is preparing Bluff Street for 70,000 ADT.

This indicates a downward trend in traffic volume not an upward one. This is likely consistent with the economic state of the country and the city, and given the myriad of factors involved in putting everything back in the unending, uninhibited growth track, it is hardly likely we will be seeing the numbers rise to meet the estimations being presented by those who propose this and similar pie-in-the-sky projects.

Furthermore, there are viable and sensible solutions to address the flow of traffic on Bluff, and they need at the least to be heard, which is what Kohler told the MPO on September 19. He has presented comprehensive notes and case studies on the subject, which include but are not limited to, the construction of roundabouts at the above-mentioned intersections. This would be effective and prudent, saving the taxpayers an estimated 50 million dollars, and all but abdicating any negative impacts on existing businesses and residents.

Not to mention, the negative impacts of a freeway interchange would not only affect businesses, it would affect the public in losses of business revenues and subsequent tax revenue.

Because they are free flowing, roundabouts would also abdicate the necessity for widening the road.

At present, this project is being presented by UDOT to the MPO with little, if any public notice – a trend that seems popular here in Dixie.  It would be surprising to find out there was opposition from our legislators to a proposal of roundabouts given their staunch proclivity towards things that go round and round.

Seriously though, and not to be redundant, a track record of quietly passing large and excessively expensive projects leaving the burden of expense on the taxpayer is common place here.

According to a recent insert from Citizens for Dixie’s future, the Lake Powell Pipeline’s initial estimated costs to taxpayers was $250 million. It is now estimated at over $2 billion. It is reasonable to assert a freeway-like interchange would face similar increases, especially given the fact that there seems to be an eagerness to press ahead without much actual foresight and consideration.

At present, this project is on hold and a meeting was scheduled for this Wednesday. UDOT says the meeting is now being pushed back to January.

I am for prudence and foresight in matters of planning and development, but what I am not for is the apparent lack of transparency and accountably on the behalf of those who represent us as taxpayers and citizens. It is reasonable to require that sensible solutions be derived from dialogue, not only with those who stand to benefit financially, but with those who will be affected and will ultimately pay for these ridiculous ventures.

See you out there.

Become informed. Links to UDOT’s Bluff Street study and plans:
http://www.udot.utah.gov/bluffstreetstudy/
http://www.udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg:0:::1:T,V:2734,
http://www.sgcity.org/traffic/showProject.php?id=20
http://www.youtube.com/user/LochnerVA#p/a/u/1/O5QHn9OMRIE

dhyland@stgnews.com
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

 

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10 Comments

  • Tossing Salad October 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I don’t see this ‘downward trend’ of traffic conditions you cite with your numbers on Bluff. The statistics may or may not be there but any STG citizen that has been living here for over a year can tell you that the traffic and condition of the road is near abysmal. As far as business worry, I think one can look forward to spreading out a bit of the economy and business out to places like Sunset instead of drowningly centralizing it on two maddening roads (bluff, stg blvd).
    .
    I hardly see a plan to make an interchange up at Red Hills Parkway or Sunset to happen at all. I thought the idea of the Dixie Drive interchange they’re building now is to make those northern areas more accessible? I also don’t understand how you can assert that Bluff would be turned into a freeway. Check it out, drive in a big city and they have many many large, wide roads with speed limits upwards of 45 MPH with many businesses still flowing. I think it’s a fairly nightmarish delusion to assume that building a freeway there is at all what they are planning to do.

  • tyler October 27, 2011 at 12:13 am

    I agree, overkill and wasted money are words of choice here!! Already in the works today is the widening of Dixie Drive, a parallel north-south, soon-to-be major artery to Bluff, serving the valley’s westside. Dixie Drive’s improvements alone are gonna take a substantial amount of traffic volume, which supposedly is dropping anyway, off congested North Bluff. In short, Dixie Dr. will be the main connector to I-15 for Ivins, Santa Clara and most westside residents, commuting to the south/east and lower downtown parts of the valley. This being said, the ‘heavy’ traffic projected for Bluff’s future will only be from RURAL areas to the immediate north i.e. Veyo, Enterprise, Winchester Hills etc. that will never be heavier than present numbers!!

  • David October 27, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I find it somewhat humorous that this is the first time the author has heard of the potential widening of Bluff Street. It has been under consideration for YEARS. Each year, there is a Dixie area transportation Expo at the Dixie Center–they have presented these options for Bluff Street for a long time..

    Bluff Street would not become a freeway, with these much needed improvements. Last time I checked, freeways don’t have stoplights up and down them, with 35-45 mph limits. I actually believe the changes to St. George Blvd/Bluff Street and Bluff Street/Sunset Blvd would greatly enhance travel along this major transportation artery road. If you’ve ever traveled on Bluff Street– especially around rush hours (in the morning and evening) you can see that the road is already failing to meet travel needs. Try sitting through several lights without actually getting through one.

    • Shawn October 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      As someone who drives this road 6 or 7 times a day on deliverys. The only light i ever might get stuck at for more than 1 light rotation is Bluff and Blvd going North. The only thing bluff needs it to be repaved like it is getting now. When Dixie Drive is done that will also help with some of the Traffic

      • David October 28, 2011 at 10:12 am

        Precisely the intersection I am taking about. Also, it is the same intersection that the author thinks can be fixed with a roundabout–which would be a joke. The only roudabouts, that are really functional, are the downtowns ones where only one lane enters at a time. The Bloomington roudabouts are a joke… they should have just put a single point urban interchange under the freeway there (similar to the one at Washington City’s exit 10). Also the two lanes entering the roundabout on Snow Canyon Parkway is a joke too–talk about waste of money.

        I also agree that the major roads need to be seven lanes as well.

  • ms jackson October 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Well said, Tyler. He has a point about Dixie Drive relieving a lot of traffic due to it’s parallel alternative to Bluff connecting I-15. I’m surprised this wasn’t brought up in the article, but then again, that’s where bias come to play-in anything. And yea, I think Dallas is using the word freeway as sarcasm. Anybody with sense would know a city surface street like Bluff, with it’s geological location, commercial/residential mix on and nearby, couldn’t be made a literal freeway! However I do support 7 lanes the entire length-even with Dixie Drive getting widened. In all actuality, ALL major corridors i.e River Rd, SG Blvd, Red Cliffs Dr, Sunset, Dixie Dr, Snow Canyon Pky., Bluff-should have a standard width of 7 lanes as in SLC, Provo or any other urban area. If you’ve been to Mesquite, their new major roads are already built at 7 lane-width, and that’s a tiny town! ….*future planning* is really seen there!

  • Not a Mormon October 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    I welcome a freeway on Bluff street, provided that it has a service drive.
    .
    1 or 2 lanes in each direction (center of the street) separated by jersey barriers from each other and the service drives with a single entrance each way at the Blvd or i-15 exit 6 interchange and a single exit each way either at red cliffs / snow canyon parkway would funnel ‘passing-through’ traffic nicely. Large cities have these extant on their freeways, known as “expressways”. You just get on and fly down them to not deal with the “business routes” and stop-go of people getting on/off. Downside is that there’s no escape if you have to (e.g. accidents, etc)
    .
    Even so, I would still support this idea. People could escape St George faster without having to deal with the ridiculous amounts of traffic on Bluff st and those looking to use businesses would just have to put up with the lights and people stopping to get in parking lots like usual. The city could even make the express way HOV/Toll for the privilege of using the faster route (say 50-65 mph).

  • tyler October 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I have to lol, cuz really we don’t have traffic problems! We could probably grow to 200,000 more people and just barely have gridlock. Even at 5 oclock, no streets or highways are gridlocked and being stopped in a long line at a light, sitting thru more than 2 greens doesn’t count. Have any of you been to our bigger brotha Vegas??

  • tyler October 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    While on this subject, ima add my 2 cents about some of the ridiculous speed limits around. One is definetly Red Hills Pky/Snow Canyon Pky., it’s considered more of an express route, so the speed limit should be 45 to 50 at minimum! Even Bluff (congested downtown street) is at 45 on the south end!! I can see Dixie Drive being 45 over Bluff, much less lights and congestion!

  • Matt Mortenson November 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

    What I strongly advocate is reviewing all the options. The purpose of this piece was to show that the council and city/state officials sometimes try to get through things without letting anyone know about them, now I know you can’t hold a public referendum on every decision, nothing would get done, but this is a pretty big deal. I for one think the Brigham roundabout is a joke, but I am an advocate on roundabouts in general as they are typically more efficient than traditional intersections. Having moved here from a large city (Phoenix) I can attest that “traffic jams” here are a joke and I don’t think Bluff is very busy or snarled at all.
    What concerns me the most is that the current method promotes urban sprawl, I moved away from urban sprawl and that is not what I want for St. George. I would like the officials to show they are at least considering other options such as roundabouts, a continuous flow intersection, or even quadrant intersections. I just want to know that they are exploring all the options and not just traditional possibly antiquated traffic options. Thats’s about a dime worth of 2 cents, sorry for the length.

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