State wants to Utah County cities to take over old roads
By Brandon Loomis
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:08/14/2009 06:35:45 AM MDT
Saratoga Springs » Having spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new highways to serve fast-growing northern Utah County, the state now wants to unload old regional thoroughfares and their maintenance costs on cities.
Cities from Highland to Saratoga Springs say they can't afford it. But the Utah Department of Transportation believes highways now under construction -- most notably Pioneer Crossing from American Fork to Saratoga Springs -- will turn the old highways into local streets unworthy of the state highway network.
And the state also has a budget crunch that would make maintaining both old and new lanes a challenge.
"It really puts the department [UDOT] in a bind," UDOT regional director Dave Nazare told the Utah Transportation Commission as it considered the transfer at a meeting here Thursday.
The state wants to hand off State Route 73 because it's building the larger, parallel Pioneer Crossing to the south. SR-73 has served as the main connection from the Provo-Orem area through American Fork and Lehi to the mushrooming bedroom communities of Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain. It's mostly a three-lane road, whereas the $253 million Pioneer Crossing will have seven lanes.
UDOT also proposes that American Fork, Highland and Alpine take over the north-south connector on State Route 74, and that Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills take State Route 146 east of there. North County Boulevard runs north-south roughly midway between those two highways, and it's about to become a state highway when Utah County completes a widening project.
UDOT also wants to give State Route 197 within Lehi to the city, while taking on maintenance for a proposed 2100 North freeway there.
In all, the state would transfer 40 lane miles to cities while taking on 79 new lane miles. Commissioners took testimony Thursday but have not scheduled a vote.
It's a matter of thousands or tens of thousands in maintenance dollars for the cities. UDOT spent $80,000 over five years maintaining SR-74, and $87,000 in the same period for a five-mile stretch of SR-73, Nazare said. That includes all routine maintenance, such as striping and pothole filling.
Maintenance costs for the other state highways were not immediately available.
Lehi Mayor Howard Johnson said Pioneer Crossing will serve the bulk of future commuters through his city, but it won't cut down on traffic across SR-73. Up to 30,000 cars a day use the highway past Main Street in Lehi, he said. Without Pioneer Crossing, that would grow to 90,000. But growth projections indicate that, even with Pioneer Crossing, SR-73 would keep serving 30,000 cars.
Those cars don't stop at city limits, Johnson said, so SR-73 should remain a state highway.
"That traffic is not Lehi," he said. "It's intercity. That's our neighbors to the west going through."
Representatives of American Fork, Alpine and Highland also protested the transfers. Saratoga Springs Mayor Timothy Parker said he could go along with the plan, because only a short segment of SR-73 would become his city's responsibility.