On November 18th, UDOT held a public meeting at Blackridge Elementary to solicit feedback on the future expansion of Cory Wride Highway (SR-73). If you weren’t able to make it to that meeting, I’ll share some info and some commentary to help you understand the what, why and when of the proposed concept.
Eagle Mountain is growing fast. This isn’t a surprise to anyone. Like those of us who have been here for many years, new residents see the same charm and value in our neighborhoods, beautiful scenery, and starry night skies. Add that to the wonderful people who live here and Eagle Mountain is very enticing to those looking to buy a home.
With that in mind, here are some interesting numbers to put our growth in perspective. Eagle Mountain’s current population is now over 29,000 residents. Our projected population by 2050 is 114,400 residents according to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. A recent independent study suggests this projection may be significantly low.
Our growth has been fast and the trend has shown remarkable staying power. With new vehicles being added to our roads daily this proposed concept for expanding Cory Wride Highway is an effort of UDOT to be responsive and proactive to this valley’s future transportation needs. With the population of Utah estimated to double over the next thirty years (an additional 3,000,000 people), it is clear that Eagle Mountain and surrounding areas will be filling in.
The planning process for this freeway has been taking place for many years. The need has become clear enough now that efforts have moved from visioning to concept planning. Concept plans have recently been considered and their impact on future traffic flows have been modeled. You can see a comparison of the “No Build Concept” modelling and the “Freeway With Frontage Roads Concept” here. You will notice that the “No Build Concept” (not a good option) leaves Cory Wride Highway with Heavy Congestion and 51,000 average daily vehicle trips between Ranches Parkway and Mountain View Corridor. It also results in between 43,000 and 46,000 trips on Pony Express, which also projects heavy congestion. For comparison, the same section of Cory Wride Highway currently has about 25,000 daily trips and Pony Express has between 15,000 and 16,000 trips. You can view the existing traffic data here.
With the expansion of Cory Wride Highway to a freeway with frontage roads, the traffic patterns change dramatically. More traffic flows to Cory Wride Highway because it will have the capacity to handle the traffic and this relieves the congestion on Pony Express (which by that time will be expanded also). Cory Wride Highway’s average daily traffic volumes increase to 76,000 with limited congestion, and Pony Express between Ranches Parkway and Mountain View Corridor (future connection) drops down to 27,0000 average daily traffic volumes with limited congestion.
The work up until this point has been focused on creating and refining concept plans, and modeling their impact at a high level. Now, the various models have shown that the concept of a freeway with frontage roads will flow the most traffic, and will do so most efficiently while meeting other needs such as cross traffic access, spacing of freeway access points, and more. With that in view, the next stage is to begin a NEPA Study. That is an environmental impact study which takes approximately one year to complete. The NEPA process is very regimented and it encourages communication and cooperation between all stakeholders. municipal government, agency (UDOT), businesses, and public are all able to participate in the process and give feedback.
NEPA stands for National Environmental Policy Act. Studies under this act use a number of tools to analyze a proposed project. Without going too deep into the process, there is one noteworthy part that I want to share. In the analysis portion of a NEPA study, the social and economic impacts are considered and carefully documented. This section includes the impact to existing property owners along and within any proposed corridor of the project. Impacts to property values, aesthetics, and noise are all considered at this stage. The process is specifically designed to identify impacts, identify ways to avoid or mitigate the negative impacts and to arrive at the best possible solution to meet the transportation needs of a growing area.
The fact is that I can not accurately predict the conclusion of the NEPA study or the eventual design of the project, though I have reason to believe at this point that the project will be moving forward with the existing concept as presented. At the meeting on the 18th, a conceptual map offered three different alignments. You can view those proposed alignments here. Each of those alignments would affect some existing homes. To the homeowners in those areas, I realize this is an uncomfortable process. While I wish this project would not affect home owners, I do not yet know if it can be avoided. I do know that we can and will work closely with UDOT and with you to find the best possible path that has the least negative impact to homeowners and to the future transportation needs of this valley.
The timeline for this project is currently planned in two phases. The first phase is projected, though not funded for some time in the next ten years. This first phase would likely increase the capacity for Cory Wride Highway from Ranches Parkway to Mountain View Corridor. Additionally, the first phase of the Mountain View Corridor connection would likely need to take place on a similar or quicker time frame. This section is not expected to have direct impact on existing structures. Once aware of the needs of the facility, our staff worked closely with UDOT and Mountainland Association of Governments and developers to preserve right of way beyond what was already preserved. We will continue to take steps to prevent building on the potential corridor so that more people will not be affected.
While I don’t know the conclusions that will be reached through UDOT’s planning process, I can assure you that you will not be without a voice in the process. This is the start of a conversation that may be difficult for many of us, but it is necessary. The details will come as UDOT moves carefully and intentionally through the process to make certain the impacts are understood and steps are taken to prevent them wherever possible.
As always, I encourage your comments and questions. Additionally, you can call me on my cell phone at 801-564-9342, or email me at email@example.com. If you have a question which others may have, I prefer to answer it on this blog so that others may benefit from the answer as well.