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Ahead of potential Olympics, Heber wants to ‘learn from Park City’s mistakes’ with growth, traffic

Trucks head north on Heber City's Main Street.
Grace Doerfler / KPCW
Trucks head north on Heber City's Main Street.

Heber City councilmember Scott Phillips said Heber City leaders are working to manage rapid growth and development and reshape downtown to fit the city’s future.

One of the biggest elements of that plan is the western bypass road, meant to mitigate traffic on Heber’s Main Street. Phillips said the need for that road is already apparent.

“Even now, there’s some days heading out of town towards Park City where… you wait there at River Road 35, 45 minutes just to get out of the valley,” he said. “And we’re trying to learn from Park City’s mistakes as far as working with UDOT with Kearns Boulevard – we don’t want that scenario here… We want to have more of a unified message.”

But arriving at that unified message hasn’t been easy: county and city leaders disagree about which of five routes they support. Generally, Wasatch County councilmembers don’t want the road to go through the agricultural North Fields, while Heber leaders would prefer the road connect back to U.S. 40 farther from downtown.

UDOT’s preferred route announcement is expected by the end of the year. After that, Phillips estimates it will be seven to 10 years before the bypass is built. Leaders around Wasatch County have named 2034 as their target date to have the road finished, in anticipation of hosting the Olympics.

Some 80,000 vehicles pass through Heber’s Main Street every day, including a high volume of semi-trucks hauling oil from the Uinta Basin to Salt Lake City. Phillips predicted the widening of U.S. 189 will increase the amount of traffic coming through Heber.

He said pulling truck traffic away from the heart of town will make a big difference in how locals use downtown spaces.

“One of our main interests as a city in rerouting Highway 40 is to create more of a destination downtown,” he said. “Just standing on the Heber sidewalk trying to talk to anybody is extremely difficult because of the noise.”

Plans are in the works for a revitalized downtown. The city council has proposed a new pedestrian alley just west of Main Street, from 200 South to Center Street. Councilmembers envision it as a home for future outdoor dining and shopping.

And a new bandshell will arrive in City Park soon to host summer concerts every Thursday evening.

“It’s the beginning of a plaza which will be the bookend of that new alleyway,” Phillips said. “And then the other bookend the other way is going to be City Hall.”

Construction on the bandshell begins this spring, as well as a new fountain beside City Hall.