West Davis Corridor plans spur concerns about sewer rates, noise, pollution

Sunday , August 27, 2017 - 11:09 AM2 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

WEST POINT — Back when he was a kid, says Rock Hendry, peering at the line of new homes off in the distance, the area south of 1800 North in West Point was wide open territory.

“We used to come down here pheasant hunting. It was just a kid’s paradise,” he said. 

But even if development has encroached, the zone retains a rural feel. A large manmade pond on the land, where his home now sits, serves as a sanctuary for geese and other birds, hundreds of them at times. Cows graze in a field to the south.

Now, though, comes a big test.

Utah Department of Transportation plans call for construction of the West Davis Corridor, the limited-access roadway meant to improve access between western Davis County and the Salt Lake City area, right through the middle of his pond, within sight of his front porch. It’s got him worried and many others contemplating the possible adverse impacts of the $725 million, 19-mile roadway — noise, unanticipated costs to connect into the planned highway, increased pollution around two schools and hikes in sewer rates, even.

"Just draining the pond's going to be a kick in the shorts. It's tough, it really is,” Hendry said, mulling the day, still years off, when the roadway makes its way to his neighborhood. “From this to a four-lane highway, it's just sad.”

RELATED: West Davis Corridor a done deal, pending one final federal approval

The West Davis Corridor plans, in the works for years, will bring dramatic change to western Davis County — through West Point, Syracuse, Layton, Kaysville and Farmington. Most, like Hendry, know it’s in the offing, seem to accept its coming and understand the need for the upgrade — to accommodate population growth and increasing traffic and to create a relief valve to ease congestion on packed Interstate 15.

Even at this late stage, though, with a route nearly finalized, most funding secured and work to start in 2020, questions, concerns and complaints persist. 

“We acknowledge that this highway is coming. It doesn’t mean we’re in love with it,” said Dave Millheim, the Farmington city manager.

Story continues below map. 

Sewer fees, noise, exhaust

Beyond Hendry’s concerns, the worries run the gamut:

Higher sewer rates: Jill Jones, general manager of the Central Davis Sewer District says the roadway, in its current configuration, would bisect sewer district property in western Kaysville, impacting how it handles biosolids.

As is, the CDSD spreads biosolids — the strong-smelling, nutrient-rich waste created in the sewage-treatment process — on the grounds around its facility. With the West Davis Corridor coming through, the district would potentially have to come up with new, more costly ways to handle the material so the new contingent of passing motorists wouldn’t be overwhelmed by strong odors. The new methods, if needed, could potentially raise costs, requiring sewer rate hikes of perhaps $5 to $20 a month for district customers in Kaysville, Farmington and Fruit Heights, Jones maintains.

RELATED: UDOT rules out 'shared solution' for West Davis Corridor road plans

Randy Jefferies, the UDOT project manager for the West Davis Corridor plans, questions whether hikes will be needed. District officials have met with city and sewer district officials, he said, noting that past UDOT projects haven’t necessitated sewer rate hikes.

“We’re confident we can come up with a plan based on the current alignment,” Jefferies said. “We have some good options to look at.”

Noise: Some in Syracuse worry about the proximity of the roadway to their backyards and potential noise, according to Syracuse Mayor Terry Palmer.

UDOT plans propose installation of noise walls east of Fremont Crest Avenue in Syracuse and west of Rifleman Drive in Farmington to minimize potential disturbances in two neighborhoods in the cities. City residents would have to approve installation of the barriers, but Palmer thinks noise can be minimized, also noting use of noise-reducing pavement and other measures.

Peripheral road costs: Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt warns of the potential cost to tie city streets into a planned West Davis Corridor interchange in western Kaysville, adjacent to Farmington.

The funds would have to come locally, Hiatt maintains, though Millheim thinks Davis County and the state would potentially provide money. “That will be a pretty significant investment and a pretty significant financial burden,” Hiatt said.

Aside from cost, there’s the question of selecting a corridor from the existing city street system to the interchange, just south of the Central Davis Sewer District. The plan is to connect the West Davis Corridor to Shepard Lane in Kaysville, which will eventually have a connection to I-15, but Hiatt wants to make sure the connection steers clear of residential streets.

The interchange would be a key West Davis Corridor access point for Farmington residents, according to Millheim, and it’s a priority element from Farmington officials’ perspective.

School pollution: Roger Borgenicht of Utahns for Better Transportation worries of the potential for auto exhaust impacting students at two schools near the planned route, Canyon Creek Elementary in Farmington and Syracuse Arts Academy in Syracuse. Borgenicht’s group asks for “balanced transportation choices” that factor environmental concerns.

He’s conveyed his concerns to UDOT and also asked the agency to limit commercial traffic on the roadway and to prohibit billboards to minimize visual pollution. UDOT officials say trucks and other commercial vehicles will be allowed, to keep such traffic off of other, less-traveled roadways, and they’ll leave it to local officials to decide if billboards should be allowed, according to Borgenicht.

‘It’s terrible’

To be sure, UDOT officials have done their homework in coming up with the proposed West Davis Corridor trajectory, from I-15 in Farmington north and west to 1800 North in West Point.

In unveiling it last month, officials noted they had evaluated 51 options for the road and incorporated numerous accommodations to minimize adverse impacts to the public. They’re accepting feedback on the plans through Aug. 31, ahead of a final review by Federal Highway Administration officials.

“It’s been a long 10 years,” said Hiatt, referencing the length of his involvement as a Kaysville city official in the project. “I feel like we got it right. We just need to get the 11th-hour changes right as well.”

Likewise, though some are concerned, Palmer, the Syracuse mayor, says most in western Davis County look forward to having a quick route south to Salt Lake City.

Regardless, some will be unhappy no matter what, Millheim says, it’s such a massive, far-reaching project.

And Hendry — who’s pleaded his case to UDOT officials and others, so far to no avail — still hopes planners push the roadway corridor a bit just to the west, saving the pond on his property. Funding for the West Davis Corridor project from Antelope Drive north to 1800 North, near his home, still hasn’t been secured, giving him time to argue his case, but even so, he seems skeptical.

Plans as they stand call for just a two-lane roadway through his property, but earlier blueprints showed four lanes and Hendry thinks a wider highway is inevitable given growth throughout Davis County. Thus, he worries that evenings spent watching nesting Canada geese, sandhill cranes, swans and other critters from his front porch may be numbered. If, when the West Davis Corridor comes through, the birds will scatter and he and his wife will get a close-up view of a highway instead.

“It’s terrible. That pond makes our house, makes our property,” Hendry said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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