I want to give you a bit of information about the Pioneer Crossing Extension and the SR-73 tie in. Before I do that though, I want to acknowledge your frustration. I understand how you feel about this because I feel the same way. I voiced my concern over this project at the open house in January shortly after taking office. I was not satisfied with the message I received at that meeting, so I scheduled an appointment with The UDOT region 3 director. We held that meeting and by the conclusion of that meeting it was clear there was nothing that could be done to change the plan. At that time, I didn’t invest any additional time on advocating for a change as I knew that Heather Jackson had already made her dissatisfaction with this plan known, and there was no traction. At that point I made a mistake. It is a mistake I have made before. I said to myself, “there is nothing I can do about this. This is the way government works.” I made that mistake several years ago when I stopped being involved in Eagle Mountain City’s government because I thought to myself “there is nothing I can do because this is the way government works.” I snapped out of that mentality once before (which led me to run for Mayor) and I think I have just learned the lesson again thanks to some persistent residents. Governments are supposed to listen to the citizens, and share information with them about what decisions are being made that will impact them. I’m not making those statements to be inflammatory or to point fingers as I believe the issues we are facing are a result of benign miscalculation. In fact if there is anywhere to point the finger, it will be at me. I accepted the answers that were given to me in January when I should have pressed further. Now it’s time to press.
Before I go any further, let me state my philosophy clearly. This is not an “us against them” proposition. I have quite enjoyed the professional relationships that I have formed with our UDOT representatives. I do think we missed the mark on this project and I’d like to qualify that statement. The Pioneer Crossing extension will have a huge (and positive) impact on Eagle Mountain traffic when coupled with the Northbound access that Mountain View Corridor (MVC) will someday offer. It will flow traffic far more efficiently East and South for those who commute to other parts of Utah County. The problem as I see it, exists in the period of time after the completion of Pioneer Crossing extension and before the as-of-yet unknown date when MVCo is to be built. I believe the design we have in place during that interim period does not work for Eagle Mountain for several reason.
- Winter driving safety concerns
- Project introduces a choke point to one of only 2 possible entry points to the city
- Significantly increases commute times, especially the evening commute for Westbound traffic
- Long term solutions have an unknown date of arrival (Mountain View Corridor)
- With two points of entry to our city, this project reduces the inroads to only 2 lanes total
- Commuters are traveling through Harvest Hills residential neighborhoods to avoid delay
- This change reduces Eagle Mountain’s overall traffic capacity and injures economic development opportunities
- This change is negatively affecting the traffic patterns of all other major roadways in Saratoga Springs
While there may be many other personal objections to the project, this should be a summary of the clinical concerns. I understand that there have been many complaints about this project. There is good reason to expect that many of these inconveniences will go away, or at minimum, be greatly reduced, when all lanes are opened in November and December. The part of this project that is causing the greatest impact is the reduction of capacity from the single right hand turn lane heading West. This single lane is simply not capable of flowing the volume of traffic that is returning from the North around the hours of 5:00 to 7:00 PM. When construction is complete, cones are removed, and drivers get used to driving without stopping at that curve, traffic will flow at higher volumes, though that will not solve the problem. When the lanes are fully opened to traffic for East and West travel on the Pioneer Crossing extension, a small amount of pressure will be relieved from the Westbound return traffic during the evening commute, though again that will not make up for the reduced capacity. I expect this East/West opening will also relieve most, if not all Eastbound congestion on SR-73 during the morning commute. As noticed by many, we have gone from having two lanes available to westbound traffic (especially during the evening commute) to only one lane with a sharp turn. evening traffic on SR-73 under the “straight shot” configuration was already experiencing some congestion. We have taken a significant step backward by restricting the flow of traffic on the primary corridor that serves the entire Cedar Valley. Given that Eagle Mountain issued 400 building permits last year and is already beyond that pace this year, pressures on our transportation infrastructure will only increase from here.
I have been working with UDOT to find solutions to your concerns this week, and I have appreciated their efforts. To address the reduced capacity from the single right turn for westbound traffic, UDOT has committed to stripe for, and signalize an additional “overflow” lane on the outside (to the left of) of the “pork chop”. This will be a right-hand turn lane and it will be equipped with a sensor to determine when 3 vehicles are stacked. It will then turn turn the light red for cross traffic to protect those who are turning. While I am not a traffic engineer, I do not expect that this will completely relieve the queuing of traffic, though it should make a significant impact toward reducing the time cars are delayed in traffic. After this is added and the other lanes are opened to through traffic, I will be requesting that UDOT complete a level of service study to determine what grade the intersection is given for its flow. Given our rapid and sustained population growth, a high standard would be expected as our continual increase to population will only lower the flow and thus reduce the level of service over time. I have posted the grades below.
A: free flow. Traffic flows at or above the posted speed limit and motorists have complete mobility between lanes. The average spacing between vehicles is about 550 ft(167 m) or 27 car lengths. Motorists have a high level of physical and psychological comfort. The effects of incidents or point breakdowns are easily absorbed. LOS A generally occurs late at night in urban areas and frequently in rural areas.
B: reasonably free flow. LOS A speeds are maintained, maneuverability within the traffic stream is slightly restricted. The lowest average vehicle spacing is about 330 ft(100 m) or 16 car lengths. Motorists still have a high level of physical and psychological comfort.
C: stable flow, at or near free flow. Ability to maneuver through lanes is noticeably restricted and lane changes require more driver awareness. Minimum vehicle spacing is about 220 ft(67 m) or 11 car lengths. Most experienced drivers are comfortable, roads remain safely below but efficiently close to capacity, and posted speed is maintained. Minor incidents may still have no effect but localized service will have noticeable effects and traffic delays will form behind the incident. This is the target LOS for some urban and most rural highways.
D: approaching unstable flow. Speeds slightly decrease as traffic volume slightly increase. Freedom to maneuver within the traffic stream is much more limited and driver comfort levels decrease. Vehicles are spaced about 160 ft(50m) or 8 car lengths. Minor incidents are expected to create delays. Examples are a busy shopping corridor in the middle of a weekday, or a functional urban highway during commuting hours. It is a common goal for urban streets during peak hours, as attaining LOS C would require prohibitive cost and societal impact in bypass roads and lane additions.
E: unstable flow, operating at capacity. Flow becomes irregular and speed varies rapidly because there are virtually no usable gaps to maneuver in the traffic stream and speeds rarely reach the posted limit. Vehicle spacing is about 6 car lengths, but speeds are still at or above 50 mi/h(80 km/h). Any disruption to traffic flow, such as merging ramp traffic or lane changes, will create a shock wave affecting traffic upstream. Any incident will create serious delays. Drivers’ level of comfort become poor.This is a common standard in larger urban areas, where some roadway congestion is inevitable.
F: forced or breakdown flow. Every vehicle moves in lockstep with the vehicle in front of it, with frequent slowing required. Travel time cannot be predicted, with generally more demand than capacity. A road in a constant traffic jam is at this LOS, because LOS is an average or typical service rather than a constant state. For example, a highway might be at LOS D for the AM peak hour, but have traffic consistent with LOS C some days, LOS E or F others, and come to a halt once every few weeks.
While I want to be reasonable and allow UDOT the time to prove all of my assumptions wrong (which they very well may), I do not want to wait until months have passed to consider alternative solutions. As hard as I try to tell myeslf that this will all work itself out and the new traffic pattern will be okay, I can’t bring myself to accept that we have gone from two strait and free flowing westbound lanes to two meandering lanes with one free flowing sharp turn and one signalized sharp turn. As mentioned by many, there is a strong desire to allow traffic to flow freely to the west in larger volumes than the current plan allows for. There are a several means by which this could happen and that is what I will be trying to secure.
This coming wednesday, I have scheduled a meeting with our UDOT region 3 director, engineer, and project planner. I will be bringing our City engineer, and planner. I have also invited Representative David Lifferth from Utah House District 2. We will work together to identify solutions and as always, I will keep you posted.
Here is a map of the proposed MVC interconnect. Be patient, the map may take several minutes to load.