Saturday, November 21, 2009
Online Survey Shows Public Opposes Proposed $600 Million "Bridge To Nowhere" Across Utah Lake By A 2-to-1 Margin
On November 20th, 2009, the Deseret News reports that an online survey just concluded shows that respondents oppose a proposed bridge across the northern end of Utah Lake by a 2-to-1 margin.
During public hearings in Provo in October and in Saratoga Springs earlier in November, comments for and against were split about half and half, said Dave Grierson of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. But comments online are about 2-to-1 against the proposed bridge. Grierson said the results haven't been too surprising. Those who are against construction of the bridge tend to be more passionate than those who support it, he said. But the number of comments for or against bridge doesn't matter as much as what respondents say.
The proposed bridge, described in greater detail on the Utah Lake Crossing website, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands website, and this 23-page document from the Governor's Office, and this 15-page DNR presentation, would run about 7.6 miles total from near Pelican Point in Saratoga Springs eastward to Orem at 800 North. The portion of the connection across the lake, approximately 5.8 miles, would be supported on bridge structure of approximately 150’ spans. The bridge, which would eventually have two structures carrying six lanes of traffic, would have its estimated $600 million price tag paid for with tolls, which would be set at about the price of a gallon of gas. It will be a completely private venture from start to finish. Proponents claim the bridge is needed to accommodate the additional half-million people who are expected to live in Utah County in the next 50 years. In addition, it would bypass a traffic choke point in Lehi, and, in extreme cases, reduce a 20-mile commute to as little as eight miles.
However, opponents have many concern. Number one on the list is redundancy. Proponents are relentlessly pushing this bridge long before another proposed solution to the traffic problem is even completed. The Pioneer Crossing project will result in a new east-west connector from American Fork through Lehi to Saratoga Springs. The project, expected to be completed by October 2010, also includes improvements to the I-15 interchange at American Fork Main Street and a new 60-inch water main. The specific highlights:
-- Pioneer Crossing, a new, five-lane urban arterial from Redwood Road in Saratoga Springs to 300 East in Lehi.
-- Seven lanes of Pioneer Crossing from 300 East in Lehi to American Fork Main Street.
-- A new diverging diamond interchange (DDI) at I-15 and American Fork Main Street, which will replace the existing diamond interchange.
-- I-15 widened to six lanes (5 plus one Express Lane) in each direction through the interchange (to tie in to the upcoming I-15 widening project).
-- A new 60-inch water main from Redwood Road in Saratoga Springs to 300 East in Lehi.
When complete, the Pioneer Crossing is anticipated to cut travel time between the west and east sides of Utah Lake by as much as one-third. This would seem to preclude the need for a bridge to cut across the lake at this time. Thus the bridge is a solution looking for a problem. In 20 years, it may be a bridge to somewhere, but at this point, it's a bridge to nowhere.
In addition, the FightTheBridge website reveals that Utah Crossing may have overestimated the savings in mileage. Although the Utah Crossing website claims drivers would be able to save 30 to 35 miles by using the proposed bridge instead of going around the lake, Google Maps indicates an actual difference of only 15.3 miles. When pressed at a meeting to explain why he inflated the numbers to exaggerate the benefit of the proposed bridge, Leon Harward of Utah Crossing abruptly called the meeting to an end.
There are also some environmental concerns regarding wildlife and air quality which have been voiced. Some also question how the bridge would withstand a strong earthquake; the Wasatch Front is overdue for a major seismic event.
Community reaction on the west side of Utah Lake is mixed. While Eagle Mountain officials tend to favor the project, Saratoga Springs officials are more skeptical. The previous mayor of Saratoga Springs, Tim Parker, opposed it outright, because he felt the location is wrong, it will destroy the city's view of the lake, the toll will cost too much, it will bring unwanted traffic congestion, and it does not compliment the regional transportation plan. The new mayor, Mia Love, is more neutral on the project. East side communities such as Orem, American Fork, Lehi, Vineyard and Mapleton have come out in support of the project.