Overpass brings city together

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:38 AM

Stephanie Chambers

Roy was a city divided, at least in the sense of traffic flow. The problem was a double set of railroad tracks -- the Union Pacific and the Rio Grande -- cut through the heart of Roy.

And often, trains would block all east-west routes through the city.

As the west side of the city continued to grow, people recognized a vital need for an overpass and began fighting for the completion of the thoroughfare on 5600 South, or State Road 97.

"The problems were accidents involving constant collisions between trains and motor vehicles, and delays in traffic flow," said Joseph Dawson, who served as mayor from 1974 to 1981 and before that as a councilman from 1963 to 1973.

Gerry Adair, who served as a state representative from Roy between 1992 and 2002, said those tragic accidents, including a personal experience with waiting for the trains, were what inspired him to run for office and work toward getting the federal money directed to the 5600 South overpass.

"I woke up on a Sunday morning with chest pains,"Adair said. "I couldn't breathe, so we called the paramedics to take me to the hospital. On the way in we stopped, and I said, 'What are you stopping for?' and they said, 'There's a train.' Those trains average 75-80 cars, a mile long, and usually take 15 minutes."

Adair said that although he learned later that he wasn't having a heart attack, the experience galvanized his efforts as head of the Transportation Committee to get the Utah Department of Transportation to build the overpass.

Kathleen M. Browning, the mayor of Roy from 1990 to 1994 and a councilwoman from 1986 to 1988, said she and the council at the time worked tirelessly to get the funds and approval needed to connect the west side of the city to the fire and police services, as well as to improve traffic conditions and eliminate the snarls.

"That was our No. 1 priority," Browning said, "to get a bridge over the tracks, so we could move traffic from west to east and even beyond Roy. It took us a lot of years."

In 1960, about 9,000 people were living in Roy. By the time Browning was elected, that number had grown to more than 24,000, and most of that growth was west of the tracks.

"People couldn't get to Hooper and couldn't go down to 3500 West and go north or south," Browning said. "We just couldn't get across the tracks. Sometimes cars were down for 35-40 minutes, waiting. And medically and fire-wise, it was really vitally important to be able to get across the railroad track to other parts of the city. We just desperately needed some way to get across the tracks."

Browning said that issue, along with other city concerns, often kept the council in meetings until midnight and beyond, convincing UDOT and the Wasatch Front Regional Council to give the go-ahead for the project.

"It was just like a ping-pong ball going back and forth," she said. "It became extremely frustrating to the mayor, council and to all of us who were trying to do something about it. This went on for years."

Browning said it wasn't any one thing that moved the project forward, but the work of many that finally moved the project to approval in 1993.Construction began in 1996 and was completed in 1998.

"It's marvelous," said Browning, who has since moved to Ogden but still frequently uses the overpass. "It's just so beneficial to the entire western part of Weber County. It's been marvelous from the minute it was built, to help with fire and, of course, for police and if people have a medical emergency. It just needed to have happened long before it did."

Marge Becraft, former councilwoman and a resident of Roy, said the overpass has connected the city.

"It's great to not have to wait and wait and wait for trains to go by," she said. "(The tracks) really divided the city in half, and you could never get where you wanted to go because of trains. The overpass definitely was a boon."

Roy City Manager Chris Davis has lived in Roy since 1992 and has been city manager for the past 10 years. He said the overpass not only helped with the important issues of traffic movement and safety, but also provided other benefits.

"It makes it easier for people to get out to the west side, and easier for them to get back east," he said. "I think you've seen a couple businesses come in there. Goldenwest Credit Union on 5600 and some of those other businesses have been able to say, 'OK 5600 is a good place to be because it has traffic coming west to east and vice versa.' It has an economic impact to us."

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