SYRACUSE -- A coalition made up of environmental and citizens groups wants the state to take a step back from its work on the West Davis Corridor.
Members of Utahns for Better Transportation, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Great Salt Lake and several other groups held a news conference Tuesday at the Syracuse Arts Academy to formally announce their collective opposition to the Utah Department of Transportation's proposed West Davis Corridor.
The coalition wants the state to delay its environmental impact statement to undertake an additional study of an alternative-build solution that does not include a new road.
The group says the proposed corridor is not only unnecessary, but that it also would do more harm than good.
The group says the road would create air pollution and health problems, cause urban sprawl and discourage the use of public transit.
Roger Borgenicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation, said UDOT can achieve the outcome it has in mind for the West Davis Corridor -- reduced congestion on Interstate 15 and greater mobility throughout the Top of Utah -- without building a new road.
"We're optimistic that there may be a good strategy for creating a truly shared solution that leaves affected communities with something they'll find far more appealing than an expensive, destructive, underutilized freeway," he said.
The coalition has been working with several consultants to develop an alternative that is based on improving existing infrastructure and integrating transportation and land-use development to reduce automobile congestion.
Although UDOT has previously studied alternatives for the project that did not include a highway, the coalition believes those "no-build" alternatives were not studied rigorously enough.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason said the state is set to release its draft environmental impact statement on the corridor May 16. Once that draft is released, UDOT will hold several public meetings regarding the road.
The West Davis Corridor team will hold three open houses as part of the public comment period.
The open houses will give the public an opportunity to learn about the EIS process, view maps of the alternatives and review data collected during the study, Gleason said.
Public hearings also will be part of the public open houses. The hearings will be an opportunity for residents and groups to have their comments received by project leaders and recorded by an official court reporter.
"Once the draft EIS comes out, we're hoping to get further public input and discuss in further detail what our recommendations are," Gleason said.
He also said the department has spent "thousands of hours" meeting with local stakeholders affected by the project to develop the best possible scenario to improve mobility in the area.
"This isn't something that we've put together overnight. We've put a lot of time into this."