Existing wetlands, native grasses, and wildlife habitat that could become a high-speed freeway.
Most Utah Sierra Club members remember all too well the high profile fight over the proposed 120-mile Legacy Highway, the pro-development brainchild of then Utah Governor Mike Leavitt. Fortunately, the Sierra Club and our critical allies prevailed in that battle, resulting in what became the Legacy Parkway, a 14-mile specially designed highway that relieved congestion gridlock on I-15 and has become a completely new driving experience for most Utahns.
With a breath of déjà vu, it looks as though the Utah Department of Transportation didn’t learn their lesson in the last go around.
In their continual quest to build high speed roads, UDOT is proposing the West Davis freeway (UDOT spinmeisters call it a “corridor”), a new five-lane, high-speed strip of concrete that would begin close to the north end of the current Legacy Parkway and extend northwest for approximately 24 miles, dissect critical wetlands, migratory bird habitat, farmlands, take out homes, and literally pave the way to more sprawl and auto dependency for West Davis County and the Wasatch Front.
Similar to the Legacy battle, UDOT’s public relations machine has been quite successful in perpetuating numerous myths about the West Davis project. These include:
- A new five-lane freeway is necessary to improve local transportation and meet future growth in Davis County.
- No other options will work.
- Everyone in Davis County supports a new freeway.
- It is an extension of the Legacy Parkway.
- UDOT’s own modeling data for 2040 show that a new freeway would be vastly “underutilized” with 20-40% of total capacity used during peak afternoon rush hour.
- A growing number of Davis County residents do not want it.
- Calling a freeway a “corridor” does not change what is really proposed, which is a $600 million (state tax dollars badly needed for education, etc.) high-speed freeway, 14’ to 30’ elevated roadway in places, complete with noisy semi trucks, unsightly billboards, and commercialized intersections for 7-11s and big box stores. Nothing like Legacy Parkway.
- The preferred route encompasses the Syracuse Arts Academy, exposing 1,000 children within 100’ of the freeway and to dangerous levels of auto/truck pollution.
- The Wasatch Front Regional Council’s own future plan, Wasatch Choice 2040 (see it here), calls for less “vehicle miles traveled,” or VMTs, and shared solutions for increasing mobility by 2040, including boulevards and boulevard communities, land use designed to attract local business instead of sprawl, and more mass transit and bikeways. UDOT’s proposal would do exactly the opposite.
- The freeway would have permanent negative impacts on the natural features of West Davis County, including Farmington Bay, the wetlands, migratory birds and habitat, and underground hydrology.
- A new freeway only makes sense for land developers of West Davis County who are looking to sell their land ‘per square foot’ instead of ‘per acre.’
- Mixed messages: More VMTs make our bad air worse. If Governor Herbert is serious about asking all Utahns to drive less, why is his top agency proposing to build another freeway when studies show it isn’t needed?
Like the Legacy battle, many organizations have joined forces with the Sierra Club to stop this recent chapter in UDOT lunacy. See the list in the left sidebar. Known as the Shared Solutions Coalition, we have proposed the Shared Solution in lieu of a new freeway. This is NOT a no-build alternative. It would, in fact, enhance existing infrastructure with redesigned intersections to increase flow, expand east-west arterials, and create boulevards to attract local businesses and new employers, implement more mass transit, and preserve existing wetlands and farmlands. You can read the Shared Solution here. While there, be sure to watch the video on innovative intersection design that is part of this alternative.
In late May, UDOT released their draft environmental impact statement on the proposed freeway and is taking public comments until August 24. Please take five minutes to tell UDOT that you want the Shared Solution to be given full and equal consideration, just like they are required by federal law to analyze any viable alternative. In addition, tell them:
- A new freeway is a direct contradiction to the Wasatch Choice 2040.
- The remaining wetlands and natural areas surrounding Farmington Bay are too precious to the survival of millions of migratory birds. Paving over more of this critical landscape is not an option.
- Their own computer modeling data does not support the project.
- It makes more sense to put scarce tax dollars into more community-oriented transportation solutions that keeps Davis County residents, jobs and dollars in the county, rather than another expensive freeway that only serves to increase real estate values, cars and pollution.
You can't build yourself out of congestion!
|UDOT's preferred route|