Over the past two months, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has fielded concerns from the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Army Corps of Engineers about the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) associated with the proposed route for the new West Davis Freeway. Now, several local groups have joined forces to encourage UDOT to move towards local-road solutions such as enlarging existing local roads to boulevard-size.
Utahns for Better Transportation, Farmington Ranches Homeowners Association, Utah Audubon Council, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Great Salt Lake Yacht Club, and Utah Birders (along with several others) have joined to form the Shared Solutions Coalition, which says that its intent is to educate the public and discourage UDOT from using highways as the go-to solution, preferring instead a boulevard option.
There are several possible routes UDOT is proposing for the highway, all of which would branch off the Legacy Parkway, either just south of Grover Lane, or just off of Shepard Lane. See the image to the right, or click here for UDOT’s interactive map.
“UDOT’s proposed West Davis Freeway will have detrimental effects on the wetland ecosystems surrounding the Great Salt Lake.” Shared Solutions said in a press release Friday morning. “The millions of birds that use the Great Salt Lake ecosystem would be permanently affected by this poorly thought out freeway.”
In a May Deseret News article, it was noted that the coalition would instead like to see innovative intersections and “boulevard community development” that would encourage greater diversity of homes, retail, and business. Shared Solutions released a YouTube video (below) of the intersection of Antilope Drive and Main Street in Syracuse as an example of what UDOT could explore.
UDOT, on the other hand, has noted that the EIS process for the 24 mile stretch of road is ongoing, and claims that the design will balance the needs of the local community, the environment, and needs of those outside of the directly impacted area. Though UDOT has its preferred route, no final decision has been made.
This growing controversy may sound familiar to Utah residents, who saw a similar battle over the planning and construction of the Legacy Parkway in Davis County. In 2004, construction on the Parkway was halted when the Sierra Club, acting as part of a greater coalition, took the state to court based on concerns about the impact on the ecosystem surrounding the project the EIS raised on that project. The state eventually found a compromise in September 2005, banning semi trucks from the parkway (except when I-15 is closed) and setting the speed limit at 55 mph until 2020. Construction resumed in March 2006, and the parkway opened to the public in September 2008.
If the fight over the West Davis Freeway makes it to court as a lawsuit, the ensuing legal battle could cost the state millions in tax dollars.
The following is a video from Shared Solutions Coaltion’s website, promoting boulevard options: