Lehi City Council adds potential off-shore highway to master transportation plan
Nov 16, 2023, 8:30 AM
(Lehi Planning Commission)
LEHI — The Lehi City Council has approved adding an off-shore highway to the master transportation plan so it can be evaluated in the Utah Department of Transportation’s environmental impact study.
The City Council and UDOT are working on solutions to accommodate the massive amounts of traffic crossing through Lehi to get to Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain each day. Several roads are being considered to be widened or transformed into freeways.
The council said, most likely, multiple solutions will have to be implemented to fully address the traffic concerns as the growth in cities continues. But ultimately, UDOT will decide on what construction happens to the roads.
On Tuesday, the council approved adding an off-shore highway on the north shore of Utah Lake to the city’s master transportation plan. This ensures the off-shore freeway will be evaluated during UDOT’s environmental impact study that will asses all traffic options in Lehi to determine the best course of action.
Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson said he anticipates Pioneer Crossing will need to be widened in conjunction with other road adjustments, as well. Johnson said the environmental impact study is important to understand which options will best benefit the city.
He said the off-shore freeway has a lot of advantages, but all aspects need to be studied. Along with building a new causeway, he hopes the shoreline will be improved so it can be more “usable.”
Traffic engineer Luke Seegmiller said there will be local road impacts to get onto Pioneer Crossing if it’s converted into a freeway because there will only be interchanges at 2300 West and 500 West. This will cause “big impacts” to the master plan and the changes will “turn it on its head,” he said.
Seegmiller said having the off-shore freeway on the master transportation plan allows residents to provide input on the issue before the environmental impact study is completed.
The mayor said the west side of the lake is estimated to have close to half a million people by 2050, which is “pretty significant. If we don’t plan for it now, if we don’t start allocating land acquisitions, we are going to find ourselves in trouble in Lehi.”
Johnson said the corridors in Lehi have failed to carry all of the traffic that they’re being used for.
Once freeways or corridors are added to the master transportation plan, the city can preserve wide enough areas for the corridors. He added that he wishes he could go back 20 to 30 years and identify the corridors needed for traffic and preserve them, so widening efforts didn’t have to impact residents and businesses.
“We are doing the best we can,” the mayor said. “We are planning for the very probable. We just want to get ahead of it.”
Councilwoman Katie Koivisto joked during the meeting everyone should stop talking about how Utah is such an awesome place to live, so fewer people move here. She said she does think Utah is a great place to live, but there are challenges that come with so much growth.
“The older residents of Lehi who have been here before any of this was built out, I don’t think any of them expected that Lehi would be a cut through for these other major cities. It’s really great our engineers are looking into this and are thoughtfully trying to find a way to solve this problem, because no one could have ever guessed we’d be where we are right now,” Koivisto said.
The population is projected to double in Lehi. Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, combined, are estimated to quadruple in population over the next few decades, so the traffic issue is only going to become exponentially worse, Seegmiller said.
“We need two Pioneer Crossings. If the population quadruples, we have eight Pioneer Crossings needed,” Seegmiller said during a planning commission meeting on Oct. 26.
The planning commission discussed other places around the country that have used renowned engineers to create roads in environmentally sensitive areas and said it is possible to accomplish the same feat here. Several public comments during the commission meeting mentioned environmental concerns about the off-shore freeway.
“We can’t predict the future, so we’re just going to do the best that we can with what we have,” Koivisto said.
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