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:
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