ST. GEORGE – Area residents gathered at the public hearing held by the Utah Department of Transportation Wednesday to voice their opposition to proposed changes to Bluff Street.
In the St. George City Council Chambers at the city offices, members of UDOT’s Bluff Street project team and local officials prepared to answer questions and hear concerns the public had about future road construction. To aid in their task, large print outs of Bluff Street were spread out on three different tables, and video displays and large poster boards explaining UDOT’s future plans lined the walls.
Specifically, the project team was assembled to help educate the public on the three primary alternatives to Bluff Street that UDOT had chosen in order to address future traffic needs. The reasons why these specific alternatives were chosen by UDOT were detailed in a recently completed Environmental Assessment.
The three alternatives can be found on the Bluff Project website, and are:
- Widening the mainline of Bluff Street between five and seven lanes.
- Median U-Turns designed to address traffic congestion at the Bluff Street and St. George Boulevard intersection.
- A jug-handle configuration at Bluff Street and Sunset Boulevard meant to keep traffic flee-flowing.
Each of the alternatives brought objections from the gathering public.
Don Darling, a local property owner, was among the first to address the packed council chambers when the public comment period began. He said he did not support the widening of Bluff Street, and recommended the use of roundabouts and a way Diagonal Street could be used to help lessen traffic congestion.
Darling also objected to the fact that some businesses along Bluff Street would have to relocate due to the proposed street-widening
“It’s horrendous,” Darling said. “I don’t see the need for it.”
Jason Hurst, the general manager of the Hurst General Store in St. George, voiced his concern about the proposed median U-turns.
Hurst said people understood there were traffic issues that needed to be addressed, but also said UDOT’s median u-turn proposal needed more public input before installing them in downtown St. George. The only other location in the entire state where a median u-turn exists is in Draper, and that was completed in November 2011.
“Downtown St. George doesn’t need to be a beta test for UDOT,” Hurst said.
Hurst also brought up a recurring concern shared by the residents of the Sunstone condominiums who reside next to the Dixie Red Hills Golf Course.
“[The golf course] should be preserved,” Hurst said. He recounted how the golf course was St. George’s first golf course and needed to be treated as a historic landmark.
A portion of the golf course will be taken over by the proposed jug-handle roadway if that alternative is approved.
Kim Kinderman, a local realtor and president of the Sunstone homeowners association, said she and many of Sunstone’s residents were opposed to the jug-handle. She said the it was not safe, and placed pedestrians at risk because traffic would be traveling at highway speeds.
Additional reasons why Sunstone residents were against the jug-handle included a rise in noise levels, lights from cars beaming into homes close to the jug-handle, the possibility of negatively affected property values, and a part Dixie Red Hills golf course being lost to the new roadway.
“It will be hugely harmful,” Sunstone resident Ruth Davison said.
Despite the general opposition, project manager Daryl Friant was pleased with the public turnout.
“We want to hear these comments,” Friant said.
Friant and other UDOT officials gathered at the meeting told the attendees their comments would be taken into consideration and evaluated. If necessary, aspects of the Bluff Street project could be augmented to address particular issues.
The public comments period ends on March 2, 2012. For individuals who wish to add their comments and concerns, but were unable to attend the meeting, contact information is provided on the Bluff Street Project website.
Once comments are evaluated and potentially addressed, UDOT will make its final recommendations, and then send its proposal to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.
While Friant said he was pleased by the local turnout and interests the public had in learning more about the Bluff Street Project, some residents were not as optimistic about the process.
“I am not naîve enough to think what we have to say here will make any difference,” area resident Maureen Booth said.
In all, 20 individuals addressed the gathered crowd, and none of them wholly supported the proposals UDOT had provided.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.