Sunday , March 11, 2018 - 5:00 AM1 comment
LAYTON — With an environmental study well underway, a massive reconstruction of U.S. 89 is closer to reality than it’s ever been.
But unbeknownst to most of the general public, the Utah Department of Transportation has been preparing for the project (in some form) for more than 20 years. Consequently, much of the land in the path of potential construction is already owned by the state.
UDOT recently finalized three property acquisitions along U.S. 89 in Layton. The three transactions, which included two homes and one vacant piece of land, totaled about $800,000.
The purchases are the last the state will make under its willing-seller/willing-buyer corridor preservation program. It is now moving to its conventional acquisition process, which for the $275 million highway widening includes eminent domain.
UDOT Director of Right of Way Lyle McMillan recently told the Utah Transportation Commission the agency now owns about “six dozen” properties in the pathway where the widening will take place — a stretch of the highway between Interstate 84 in South Weber and Farmington.
UDOT completed an Environmental Impact Study on the road in 1996 and has been slowly purchasing property in the area since then.
That study, similar to the State Environmental Study (SES) that is going on today, examined turning the highway into a limited-access, freeway type facility. But a construction project never materialized because traffic never got bad enough to warrant one.
It’s a different story today.
Between 2005 and 2015, average daily traffic on U.S. 89 near state Route 193 in Layton increased by about 5,000, according to UDOT statistics.
The state says by 2040, traffic on the highway will increase by 40 percent. During peak morning commute times, it takes 11 minutes to get from South Weber to Farmington. That number would jump to 48 minutes by 2040 if the project isn’t completed, according to the UDOT’s draft SES.
To reduce delay and improve safety, UDOT wants to widen U.S. 89 from four lanes to six, eliminating signalized cross-street intersections and building interchanges at 400 North in Fruit Heights and at Oak Hills Drive, Gordon Avenue and Antelope Drive in Layton.
UDOT Region One spokesman Vic Saunders said the SES is in the final review stage and the agency will soon release a final version of the study.
Unlike the recently completed environmental study of the West Davis Corridor, the study of U.S. 89 will not require approval from the Federal Highways Administration.
McMillan said UDOT has been leasing many of the homes it owns along the U.S. 89 corridor. The money has been put back into the state’s corridor preservation fund, allowing UDOT to buy even more property. When those lease agreements are finished, the fund will see a large revenue drop, but McMillan said a 2 percent tax on motor vehicle rentals will supply the fund.
The tax generates around $800,000 a month.
You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.
Sign up for e-mail news updates.