Syracuse Arts Academy worries about corridor route alternative

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:49 AM

SYRACUSE — One of the state’s final two options for the West Davis Corridor has officials at the Syracuse Arts Academy worried about the school’s future learning environment.

Earlier this year, the Utah Department of Transportation tweaked one of its final two alternatives for the proposed corridor, resulting in changes that would save nearly 40 acres of prime farmland in Syracuse.

The West Davis Corridor study team refined its Alternative B by moving it farther east in Syracuse, where it will run along a portion of Bluff Road.

Although the new option impacts essentially the same number of residences and businesses, the new design means new and different people would be affected.

Sitting at 2893 W. 1700 South, the arts academy would be only a few hundred feet from the corridor if UDOT chooses Alternative B.

Also, an interchange associated with the option would cut directly through the school’s northeast parking lot.

“We do have some concerns,” said Cameron Almond, chairman of the SAA’s board.

“There are questions about what this road would do to air quality around the school, how much noise would it bring, how would the approach to the school change, how safe would it be?”

Almond said the school’s board has been meeting with UDOT throughout the entire West Davis Corridor environmental process, but when the state made its changes, they were surprised.

“It did catch us off guard a little bit,” he said.

Established in 2006, the SAA has classes from kindergarten through ninth grade, providing students an accelerated curriculum with a comprehensive focus on the arts.

Principal Jan Whimpey wonders what a busy highway so close to her school would do to the learning environment created over the past six years.

“Our whole mission is simple. We want to do whatever we can to maintain the integrity of the learning environment that has been created here.”

Julie Bachman lives near the school and said a highway next to a school is a bad idea.

“Our children’s safety and learning environment should be held to the highest standards possible,” she said. “We don’t want our public schools forced to coexist with a (road) this intrusive.”

Bachman is part of Citizens for a Better Syracuse, a group of city residents who have come out in opposition to the Bluff Road option.

“There is another option, to move this freeway farther west, which would avoid this school completely,” she said, referring to UDOT’s Alternative A.

“It doesn’t divide our city. It doesn’t go through the most densely populated area and this close to a public school.”

UDOT Region One spokesman Vic Saunders said that before a final decision is made on the road, the state will conduct a full environmental impact statement, weighing all the potential impacts associated with the route.

A final route decision is expected next year, but the road is currently unfunded and it may be several years before any construction begins.

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