CLEARFIELD -- The alfalfa, barley and wheat fields in west Davis County were just beginning to fill with houses in the late 1980s when then-Clearfield Mayor Neldon Hamblin saw the need to organize a multi-city effort to preserve and promote what has become the State Road 193 extension.
The $70 million, five-lane road, which opened to drivers earlier this month, serves as one of Davis County's main east-west arterials, providing access to Hill Air Force Base, Weber State University's Davis campus, Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 89.
Construction work to extend the three-mile S-shape road from State Street to 700 South in Clearfield, then around the Freeport Center to 200 South, and then west to 2000 West in Syracuse, began in December 2012 after environmental studies began in 2008.
But the planning behind making room for the arterial began decades ago, with Hamblin serving as the catalyst in bringing a multi-community contingency together, according to former Republican state Sen. Dave Steele.
"The guy that got it started was Neldon Hamblin," Steele said. "He was the spearhead for getting it completed."
Steele said it was a project Hamblin envisioned about 25 years ago.
Of course, Steele, a former Senate Transportation Chairman in the Utah Legislature, played his own significant role, pressing for funds on Capitol Hill to preserve the corridor.
"I was the guy who tried to deliver the arrows others built," said Steele, a state senator from 1987 to 2003.
The current SR-193 extension terminates at 2000 West in Syracuse, Steele said. "But the plan was to go down to 3000 West in West Point, and there were properties secured to that point," he said.
"There were some houses that were displaced," Steele recalls, in putting in the road. "But not nearly what the state would have encountered had the corridor not been preserved."
Which is where Hamblin came in.
"It takes a village to raise a kid, it takes villages to raise a road," the 80-year-old Hamblin recently told the Standard-Examiner.
"The seed had to be planted and thank goodness it was fertilized and watered and nurtured through 20 years of incubation and growth, I guess, because it began to grow here a few years ago," Hamblin said of the road project brought about by what was a team effort among community leaders in Clinton, West Point, Syracuse and Clearfield.
It was in working with Steele, and the Utah Department of Transportation Joint Road Committee, Hamblin said, that gave him the contacts needed to convince others of the future need for something like the SR-193 extension if west Davis County traffic was going to be able to flow to and from the freeway.
But some think Hamblin is being modest.
Richard Waite, former Clearfield City recorder and member of the Citizens Coordination Team for SR-193, said he recalls writing in the late '80s a grant application at Hamblin's request to secure Federal Highway Administration funds to preserve land for the road project.
"Nellie (Hamblin) had the vision for it. He would just not let that go," Waite said, who served as city recorder from 1986 to 1994.
Hamblin was able to envision 700 South, which at the time dropped into the Freeport Center, as a main arterial where at that time there were only two older homes along that stretch of road, offering "minimal disruption" in taking the road that direction, Waite said.
"That road has been a dream not for only Nellie and me, but for many other people," Waite said of SR-193. He envisions someday the road connecting into the north leg of the proposed Legacy Parkway project.
But Hamblin, who still lives in Clearfield where he served as mayor from 1982 to 1997, brushes the praise aside, saying he can't take credit for all the work that went into bringing the SR-193 extension to fruition. He said city staff, particularly former Clearfield city manager and engineer Jack Bippes and former mayor Don Wood, also played a role.
Hamblin said while in office he realized 300 North, a narrow east-west state route linking Clearfield with Clinton, even back then would cost too much to widen due to the number of homes lining that street on both sides.
"Three-hundred North was over-saturated way back then," he said.
And pursuing an east-west road route by extending Center Street from downtown Clearfield, out west, was made impossible due to the large number of homes having quickly been built within that area, he said.
Realizing options were limited, Hamblin said, elected leaders from Clinton, West Point and Syracuse attended a meeting Clearfield city hosted in what it called its Seagull Room, discussing there preserving the open space needed to someday build an east-west road by linking 700 South to 200 South.
"It's not just about Clearfield. It's not just about West Point. It's about the total communities in northern Davis County. And we all too often think about the little things that need to be done, but I think the most important thing is to support the masses from a transportation point of view because that's their livelihood," he said.
"We didn't want to shove it down anybody's throat," Hamblin said of the project. But back then, based on the rapid growth of Davis County, it was apparent the county would be needing the arterial.
The 200/700 South route based on local government discussions appeared to be selected as the transportation corridor because it was the clearest, least encumbered with homes, and because the route involved dealing with the fewest number of property owners, two being the Freeport Center and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, state officials said.
UDOT officials say the extension of SR-193 will provide additional mobility within West Point, Clearfield and Syracuse that will result in fewer impacts on the communities when compared with widening other east-west roads.
The project also allows for the necessary traffic flow to expand business in both Clearfield, and those surrounding cities, Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd said.
"This opens up so many opportunities for us economically," Shepherd said of the roadway that ties the different community business centers together.
The new road also takes traffic off Antelope Drive in Layton, Shepherd said, which is lined with business as a result of it being a major east-west corridor. He said he can envision similar things taking place along the 200 South/700 South corridor.
"That east-west corridor right now has been Antelope (Drive). And this allows us to pull traffic off of Antelope and alleviate that traffic that has become nightmarish along Antelope," Shepherd said.
The improved access through that area of the county, Shepherd said, also provides easier access to the Freeport Center industrial park, allowing for possible future expansion, while offering emergency personnel a more direct route in responding to service calls.
And although the SR-193 extension, posted with a 50 mph speed limit, technically has another six months before it is finished, the road is now open to travel.
"Between now and the contractual completion of the project, the public will have the use of the roadway," UDOT spokesman Vic Saunders said. "But there will still be some infrequent, short duration roadwork and possible lane closures in the months ahead to completely finish the project."
The completion of landscaping, signage, installation of a guard rail or cable barrier and other items, will also be completed in the spring, Saunders said.
Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.