U.S. 89 upgrade plans spur Kaysville man's call for I-15/I-84 improvements

Monday , June 19, 2017 - 5:00 AM

TIM VANDENACK/Standard-Examiner

Michael Romero, project manager for the Utah Department of Transportation, discusses UDOT's upgrade plans for U.S. 89 in Fruit Heights at a March 30, 2017, meeting in Farmington. The Fruit Height plans are part of a larger upgrade along U.S. 89 from Fruit Heights to South Weber, which will be the focus of an open house on June 20 in Layton.

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

KAYSVILLE — Leaders here dub Kaysville “Utah’s hometown,” citing its small-town charms and local residents’ focus on the family.

With plans afoot to upgrade U.S. 89 through Kaysville and the rest of northern Davis County to keep pace with growing traffic, though, longtime resident Greg Ferguson fears the city may earn another moniker. 

“It’s soon going to become ‘Utah’s thoroughfare,’” he said.

RELATED: U.S. 89 upgrade details in Davis County may come into better focus at meeting

The latest upgrade plans for U.S. 89 from Fruit Heights north through South Weber — still to be fine-tuned — are the focus of a Utah Department of Transportation open house on June 20 in Layton.

But even if all the details have yet to be finalized, some in Kaysville and elsewhere are worried, fearing U.S. 89 will become a super highway, disrupting life in the city.

It’s got Ferguson proposing an alternative to the UDOT plans — upgrading the Interstate 15-Interstate 84 intersection, creating an alternative for truckers who now use U.S. 89.

If southbound access to I-15 were created for westbound I-84 motorists where the freeways meet in southern Weber County, truckers would bypass U.S. 89, reducing traffic on the highway and minimizing the need for U.S. 89 upgrades, he argues. That, in turn, would help preserve the residential nature of the zone, prevent further deterioration, anyway.

“You can always come back and widen (U.S. 89) if you have to,” he said.

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Ferguson, a retired anesthesiologist, has launched a petition drive to drum up support for the 1-15/1-84 proposal, and Nadine Harper, another Kaysville resident, backs the idea. She says many others are on board as well.

They’re an informal coalition and have toyed with a number of potential names for their group, like Quieter Kaysville and Slower Kaysville.

More generally, she thinks UDOT officials should flesh out alternatives to widening and upgrading U.S. 89.

“I don’t think (U.S. 89) was ever designed to be a freeway and it shouldn’t become a freeway. It’s residential,” Harper said. She’s got another, more particular concern — her home’s backyard abuts U.S. 89 right-of-way and if the road is widened, she’d lose real estate and likely have to contend with more noise.

RELATED: Fruit Heights residents, leaders debate future of busy U.S. 89 crossing in city

UDOT spokesman Vic Saunders doesn’t know what sort of attention the notion of upgrading the I-15/I-84 intersection has received. As is, westbound I-84 motorists can access northbound I-15 lanes but can’t go south on the interstate, making U.S. 89 the most viable alternative for westbound truckers entering the Wasatch Front who need to go south off I-84 toward Salt Lake City.

Rather, Saunders said the focus of UDOT engineers in crafting the U.S. 89 upgrade plans has been on traffic trends on that roadway and expected growth in the years to come. They’ve been balancing it all with the likely impacts on the people living in the zone.

Even so, the Kaysville residents’ concerns underscore  the questions, concerns and opposition the U.S. 89 upgrade plans have generated, at least among some.

A contingent in Fruit Heights has also raised concerns about the U.S. 89 plans, particularly the proposal to build an overpass to haul U.S. 89 traffic over Nicholls Road in the city, eliminating access between the roads.

UDOT has earmarked $275 million for the 8.6-mile U.S. 89 project.

‘Not a new proposal’

This isn’t the first time Ferguson has proposed upgrading the I-84/I-15 intersection to address U.S. 89 congestion. He broached the notion in 1990 as well, amid earlier talk of upgrading the highway. Likewise, he’s made pitches to UDOT officials, Kaysville leaders and a pair of Utah state representatives, generating tempered interest.

“This is not a new proposal,” he said. “It’s just received no attention.”

His concern isn’t just the number of vehicles on the highway, a key north-south arterial between Ogden and Salt Lake City. The presence of large semi trucks and the potential for crashes also worries him.

“Their size makes it very hard to see around them,” he said. Trucks sometimes travel slowly, encouraging other motorists to weave in and out of traffic to get around them.

Accordingly, aside from creating southbound access on I-15 from I-84, he proposes placing signage encouraging truckers to keep on the interstate system and steer clear of U.S. 89.

“Now is the defining moment in preserving the very character of east Davis County. UDOT’s mantra, ‘Keep Utah moving,’ does not justify building a wider, faster U.S. 89,” reads Ferguson’s petition.

Ferguson plans to attend the June 20 UDOT meeting on the U.S. 89 plans, petition in hand. It goes from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and will be held at Layton High School, 440 Wasatch Drive.

Harper and others will also be there, she said, and they’ll “be loud about it.”

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.