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UDOT’s proposed road closures in south Cache County don’t sit well with many

April 2nd, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Rhett Wilkinson

LOGAN — Shut down some intersections to provide a safe line of sight when entering a highway, or dangerously squeeze tractors and other large vehicles through detoured backroads? People of Cache Valley had much to say regarding the conflict at a recent joint meeting of and Cache County Council and some city councils.

Members of various city councils as well as citizens of unincorporated Cache County contested Utah Department of Transportation representative Nathan Peterson’s proposal to close intersections along 2000 West, including locations in south Logan, Wellsville, College Ward and Benson.

UDOT spokeman Vic Saunders cited poor visibility between some parts of 2000 West and Highway 89-91 as the reason for the recommendation, saying that a closure of many such routes will eliminate a risk which has resulted in a fatality in the past.

“We are taking away access to a roadway that is not safe,” he said. “We’re not trying to take everyone’s access away, but with access to highways, especially with a high speed corridor, it’s the responsibility of the state to seek safety for its users.”

However, as many of the avenues connected to the road become closed, large vehicles lose their safe passage of travel in the surrounding area, leaving them to dangerously turn onto side roads that are already too small, Council Chairman Jon White said.

“One road comes, then you want to make a turn, then you can’t so you use a side road, but if that’s going to close then you can’t make the turn at all,” he said in explaining the challenges that come from the potential series of closures. “Then you need to make the intersection square to close the other road, and those large vehicles get stuck.”

County Executive Lynn Lemon expressed similar concerns. “If you want to make some of these turns on your smaller car, that’s fine. But it’s about realizing that if you are making some of these turns in the large farm vehicles, you’re going to be taking out 20 feet of fence,” he said. “If you have a large truck or a large piece of equipment, it’s hard to avoid that.”

The concerns are a signal that Peterson said UDOT hears with open ears.

“We do look at those circumstances when we do our design,” said Peterson, who admitted that he and others at UDOT did anticipate that there would be a contest to a presentation that involved putting a number of vehicles in jeopardy of safely passing through various intersections. “We take these comments and we will go back and analyze, look at our numbers and do additional analysis on these intersections.”

Peterson said he could not confirm nor predict directly after the meeting what some of the adjustments would involve, including if it would involve enlarging any current intersections, to what severity the road closures would decrease, to whether intersections or certain parts of the road will now close at all.

“Right now, I cannot say because I do not know what the proposed changes will be,” he said. “We need to look at the design vehicle, look at the design work and look at what the impacts are.”

Other city council members who attended the meeting saw the precautions that would caboose such road closures in the particular area.

“Pulling these community representatives is together is a very good idea to be able to hear issues like this, just to see traffic flow in the valley and how that would be affected,” said Hyde Park Councilman Mark Hurd. “I just could see the points of concern.”

Such concern is a vital part to the reciprocation that Peterson affirmed he and UDOT would receive and seek to apply to the closure plan. “Part of the process is to get feedback from those in the area and take back and design better to provide a solution,” he said.

Peterson’s vow fell on White’s skeptic ears. “I hope they go back to the drawing board,” he said. “It didn’t sound like they were.”

Saunders remained firm when told that White doubted that UDOT would restructure the plan. “If there was no other way around this, we would proceed very carefully,” he said. “But unless there are compelling reasons not to protect line-of-sight safety on U.S. 89 91, I would think that we would be proceeding.”


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