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As most are aware Heber City, Wasatch County, MAG, and UDOT have collaborated on a planning study to assess the need for an alternate route for Main Street. A significant outcome of this study is that it demonstrates the need and viability of an alternate route bypassing Main Street. After contacting stakeholders in the area and analyzing traffic data one alternative was proposed that would move 189 and reroute US-40 near neighborhoods on the south west area of town.
Two weeks ago we had a public meeting to address the concerns of the residents who would be impacted by that possible realignment. A panel was created of county and city staff, UDOT representatives, MAG representatives and these panelists listened and answered questions from 6:30 pm until 11:00 pm. It was originally planned as a neighborhood gathering and we underestimated the turnout so there were not enough seats. For those who weren’t able to attend, know that this conversation is not over and there will be many opportunities to voice your opinion.
During that 5 hour meeting the residents were loud and clear about their opposition and frustration with the proposed alignment. Their voices were heard. To me this demonstrates a process that is working. UDOT agreed to recommend the most recent alignment as an “alternative” rather than the “preferred alignment.” As we move through a very complex and difficult process we will continue to have opportunities like this for residents to express their concerns. This is the nature of the process but I believe that as we continue to move forward we will find an alternative that solves the traffic problems while minimizing the impact to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The next step is an environmental impact study (called EIS by UDOT). This study will consider not only the environmental impact but the social, cultural, and economic considerations of the different alternatives as well. Two weeks ago I attended the meeting of the State Transportation Commission. County Manager Mike Davis and I both spoke to the members of the commission and City Councilmember Wayne Hardman and County Councilmember Steve Farrell were also in attendance to demonstrate unity and support. Fortunately, the members of the Transportation Commission are very aware of our situation and they voted to fund the $4 million environmental impact study. Currently UDOT staff is working on the process to hire a consultant and the study will likely begin at the end of summer.
In defense of the city council who have been criticized for not taking a stand on a preferred alignment: I am confident that like me, every single one of them want an alignment that addresses traffic issues in the most efficient, least expensive, and least impactful way to the nearby residents and the environment. Keep in mind that there are 5 Heber residents who have to vote on some of the most difficult and challenging issues this city has ever faced. I have worked with each of them for periods of 1-5 years. I can assure you that every single one of them cares deeply about the residents and well-being of this city. They spend many many hours studying and deliberating issues and dealing with the realities of complex problems that they didn’t create. If they could have attended the meeting they would have. I know them well enough to know they don’t have any conflicts or interests in the decisions they make that would benefit them or their family members financially. I don’t always agree with every vote taken and they don’t always agree with me or with each other but I am convinced at the end of the day they each take their responsibility very seriously and do what they honestly feel is best for Heber City now and in the future. Thanks for your input. Let’s keep talking.