Two big red flags went up for me this morning when I read UDOT picks Corridor link. First, UDOT is not communicating very well. Second, the media coverage is allowing some misinformation to result from gaps in the story they get from UDOT.
Flag 1: I heard from C.O.S.T., the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Daily Herald, and a citizens group in South Lehi that UDOT had arrived at 2100 North as their preferred alternative. The problem here is that I did not hear from the UDOT mailing list on the Mountain View Corridor that I am subscribed to. Worse than that, the UDOT website still says that they have not identified a preferred alignment in Utah County. I’m sure this is more neglect than malice, but it erodes whatever trust that citizens may have who have an interest in the project. If subscribing to the project email list at UDOT does not get citizens in the loop for news as major as selecting a preferred alternative of the project it is hard to believe that UDOT is trying to work with citizens. It looks like they’re working without citizens.
Flag 2: Two of the three news articles (Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune) mention that Lehi city and groups like C.O.S.T. have proposed an alternative plan that would include a freeway at 4800 North, but then we start to have a breakdown. Both references list the alternative as a freeway at 4800 North and two arterial roads. That leaves the impression that this plan is very similar to the Arterials option that UDOT rejected. There are some similarities, but one major difference is that the Lehi City proposal has “arterials” that are significantly smaller than the arterials that UDOT had proposed. The UDOT arterials are 7 lanes each – about the same size as a freeway. The second gap in the media coverage is that the coverage of the impact of the different alternatives shows that 2100 North is the best alternative, but it does not include any impact of the Lehi City proposal for comparison.
The “arterials” in the Lehi City proposal will be called “boulevards”. This will help clarify what plan we are talking about and it is the name that Lehi city uses in their plan. These two boulevards can be built much cheaper than the UDOT arterials and without destroying any homes. They can be built faster and for less money than the UDOT arterials and start their positive impact on the traffic earlier. They would also be slower roads which makes less impact on the community while allowing for the smaller boulevards to carry approximately the same amount of traffic as the larger arterials.
The boulevards would also augment commercial development in the area where the arterials would impede that development. Lehi would benefit from more revenue from the commercial development, but further benefit comes from local jobs which would reduce the need for commuting. More people would have the chance to have a job close to home rather than needing to commute to Salt Lake or Provo/Orem.
The freeway connection that Lehi City has proposed at 4800 North would be about half as long as the 2100 North freeway from UDOT and would not impact any homes or destroy commercially valuable zones. So while the 2100 North option is probably the best one that UDOT has proposed, it does not appear to be the best option that has been suggested.
I don’t think that UDOT can safely make a decision until they address the Lehi City plan (which UDOT helped to develop before they started the Mountain View Corridor) side by side with their alternatives. I don’t think they are really doing themselves or the public any favors by only sharing half the information and ignoring a better option than the one they are pushing.