Sometimes Becky Hales, a Fruit Heights resident who regularly travels through the crossing, isn’t sure if U.S. 89 motorists notice when they get a red light, giving Nicholls Road drivers the chance to safely cross or enter the speedy roadway.
“You always have to make sure the cars actually stop,” she said. And even though there’s a pedestrian crosswalk for walkers crossing the highway, she added, “you still feel like your life’s in danger.”
Accordingly, she’s all for the Utah Department of Transportation plan to build a $15 million bridge that would haul U.S. 89 traffic over Nicholls Road, eliminating Nicholls access to the north-south arterial. Work on the project is expected to start in June and finish in October 2018.
However, some worry the proposal, the focus of a public UDOT meeting Wednesday, Jan. 18, would make it tougher to get in and out of Fruit Heights.
“Personally I think it’s terrible. It’s essentially turning the east side of Fruit Heights into an island,” said Rusty Nold, a Fruit Heights resident who attended the UDOT meeting at Burton Elementary in Kaysville. It may be good for those commuting between Ogden and Salt Lake City, he said, but it’s not so great for those who live in Fruit Heights.
Motorists would still have at least one access point at E. 200 North, north of Nicholls Road.
Fruit Heights City Manager Brandon Green, like UDOT officials and Hales, focused on safety. Doing away with the U.S. 89-Nicholls Road crossing will reduce the possibility of mishaps by eliminating a potential point of conflict. There were 59 crashes at the crossing between Jan 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2016, according to UDOT.
“You have to weigh convenience and safety,” Green said in a phone interview.
Moreover, traffic at the crossing is expected to grow, raising the specter of increased congestion if nothing is changed. The average daily vehicle count on U.S. 89 around Nicholls Road totaled 40,569 in 2014 and is expected to increase to 66,900 by 2040, according to UDOT.
“A traffic signal isn’t always the panacea to all traffic movements,” said UDOT Region One spokesman Vic Saunders, also by phone. Eliminating access to Nicholls Road and removing the traffic light will streamline traffic flow, UDOT officials say.
Accessibility to and from Fruit Heights isn’t the only issue for some.
Doug Hirschi worries that building the bridge, which will rise about 25 feet in the air, will create noise issues. As is, trees beside U.S. 89 prevent the sound of traffic from carrying, he said, but he worries that noise will reverberate further when the roadway is raised above the tree level.
UDOT studies indicated noise walls “were not considered feasible and reasonable,” according to an informational board at the Kaysville meeting.
Either way, Hirschi, another Fruit Heights resident who attended the recent UDOT meeting, sees the project as inevitable given increasing north-south traffic flow along the Wasatch Front.
And UDOT officials say the U.S. 89-Nicholls Road project probably won’t be the last of the changes to address increasing traffic flow along U.S. 89. The Fruit Heights project is “one piece of the puzzle” in addressing congestion on the roadway, a key arterial between Ogden and Salt Lake City, according to Mike Romero, UDOT project manager.
UDOT launched a broader study in December examining traffic flow on U.S. 89 between Interstate 15 near Farmington and Interstate 84 in southern Weber County and possible changes to enhance traffic flow. It’s to be completed next fall, according to Romero.
“This is only one little part of the entire 89 corridor,” said Green, the Fruit Heights city manager. “Fruit Heights city is not the only city that’s going to be impacted by the 89 project.”