New report says I-84 interchange would boost economy, UDOT unmoved

Friday , November 10, 2017 - 5:15 AM3 comments

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

MOUNTAIN GREEN — A new report says speeding up a project to build a full interchange on Interstate 84 in Mountain Green would help pump millions of dollars into the economy.

But the transportation department says the half interchange in place now is working just fine. And at the moment, the state is content in following the current timeline for construction to begin — some 20 years into the future.  

An economic impact analysis completed by business management consultant Lewis Young Robertson and Burningham, Inc. says the new interchange is a major factor for moving forward and servicing two massive mixed-use developments planned in Morgan County.

RELATED: Officials say I-84 interchange in Mountain Green needs to be replaced — and soon

The first — and most imminent in terms of breaking ground — is The Village at Trappers Loop. Planned for a 225 acre swath of land near the southern terminus of State Road 167 (Trappers Loop Highway) in Mountain Green, the development includes hotels, retail space, office and warehouse space — all anchored by a grocery store. 

The second development is planned for 1,191 acres on the southern end of the Snowbasin ski resort, just inside the Morgan County boundary. According to the LYRB report, the plan calls for a golf course and nearly 2,500 new units — with roughly 25 percent of them single-family residential, 25 percent mixed-use commercial and office space and 50-percent multi-family residential.

Combined, the two developments would increase Morgan County’s population by more than 9,000 residents, bring in more 3,700 jobs and create a significant increase in the demand for public services, according to the LYRB report. 

In their analysis, LYRB estimated property and sales tax revenues that would be generated by The Village over a 20-year period, based on developer Soderby, LLC’s estimations of when units would be sold or leased.

RELATED: Powder Mountain expansion makes it the largest ski resort in the United States

LYRB produced two projections, one factoring in the new interchange and one without it. With the interchange, the development would produce $3.83 million in annual tax revenues. Without it, the number drops to $2.5 million. 

Over a 20-year period, the project would generate approximately $26 million more in tax revenue with the interchange, the report says. 

With timing projections on sold and leased units unavailable, LYRB was unable to calculate tax revenue differences in the Snowbasin development with and without the interchange, but noted the project is expected to about $8.1 million annually in tax revenues. 

Snowbasin officials have said the new interchange should be in place before construction on their project begins. At an October Utah Transportation Commission meeting, General Manager John Loomis lobbied the commission to move the project up.

“The owners have development plans on hold until market conditions become more favorable, noting that an interchange at the base of the mountain is an important market consideration,” the report says.

The Wasatch Front Regional Council, the state’s transportation planning arm for the Wasatch Front, says the idea of accelerating the project should be seriously considered.

RELATED: Ogden City hopes new downtown apartments will help push neighborhood’s economy

“The interchange has the potential to offer transportation and mobility enhancements as well as to support economic development and transportation,” WFRC Executive Director Andrew Gruber said in a letter sent to the commission.

Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Vic Saunders said the project is on Phase 3 of the department’s Long-Range Transportation Plan, which means it’s scheduled to be built sometime around 2040.

Saunders said UDOT doesn’t operate under a “if you build it, they will come” philosophy, as seems to be the case being made for moving the project up, but instead prioritizes projects based on immediate need.

“It’s difficult to spend public funding on something that isn’t really definitive yet,” Saunders said. “Traffic on S.R. 167 is functioning very well right now with the current interchange. We’re not saying the area won’t develop, we’re saying there needs to be more there before we commit to moving that project up.” 

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer. 

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