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Summit County Council Chooses A Route For Silver Creek Connector

Summit County

The Summit County Council has decided—by a 4 to 1 vote—on a connector road that will link Silver Creek to the Bitner Frontage Road.

Months of discussion and controversy left the council focused on two options.    On Wednesday they bypassed the so-called Frontage Road—which would have mostly paralleled Interstate 80—and instead chose an alignment, further north and up the hill, known as the Church Street option.

The Church Street option was supported by council Members Roger Armstrong, Kim Carson, Chris Robinson and Glenn Wright.     The dissenting vote came from Doug Clyde.

Before the vote, Armstrong said it was time for them to give their opinions.  He joked that they haven’t been beating a dead horse, but are close to that.     

“This horse has been breathing deeply for a while next to the road, begging for death.”

The two routes have been hotly debated in terms of their impact on neighboring residents, wetlands, and wildlife, and their ability to serve mass transit and alternative travel options.

One major reason for the road connector was to provide a second emergency access to Silver Creek.    Several residents, including some commenting on Wednesday, said that according to the county’s own data, an emergency response time was faster on the frontage road, and that first responders, including the Park City Fire District, favored that route.

But Kim Carson said she had asked Fire Chief Paul Hewitt to clarify his opinion in an e-mail.       

“He said, “Here’s the short answer, Kim.  There is no significant difference in any response time above where the connector road connects to Silver Creek Road.  It’s like walking in city blocks.  Either you go up first or you go over first.  The frontage road option is our preferred option because it offers us access from the bottom without doubling back.”  So if something were to take place in the lower part, they might have to come back down the road a little ways. But he said, “That being said, there is an advantage to the higher-up option for emergency egress.   It puts a second exit in a different area from the intersection at the bottom.”

Other council members said that a faster response time would largely depend on where in Silver Creek the emergency happened.

Most agreed with the argument that the frontage road link, close to I-80, wouldn’t be very effective as a second access, because a mishap there could block off both accesses.

Glenn Wright said that was a deciding factor for him.      

“Having the connector road that close to I-80 I think is not a good idea.  We’ve had examples of trucks that couldn’t get—that blocked the intersection. We’ve had other emergencies where, as Kim mentioned, we’ve had lines and lines of semis trying to find their way through Silver Creek.  I think overall, the northern route is superior from that standpoint. I think for  future transit options and improved traffic flow, again the northern route I think is far superior.”

Council member Chris Robinson also said he didn’t support the rrontage road, given its impact on residents of the nearby East Creek Ranch.     He added the frontage road could also trigger commercial development along that alignment, reflecting the zoning that has existed there going back 55 years at Silver Creek.

Roger Armstrong said he wished they didn’t have to create a new road at all but they do.

He said he’s concerned the frontage road will just channel traffic into the area near the Bell’s Station. 

“But when I look at where that daylights over by Division Street, it doesn’t work and it can’t work. We’re gonna drive congestion. We’re gonna drive traffic there, and it’s not gonna work.  And we’re gonna look like idiots when it gets so congested and when it doesn’t serve it’s purpose it’s going to be a regular posting of jack-knifed trucks blocking the street, Division Street on Next Door and other social-media sites, with the claim of look what the county wrought.”

For Armstrong, and other council members, a determining factor was that the Bitner family, owners of  the ranch property to the west for over 100 years, oppose the frontage road option.

On Wednesday, their attorney Ted Barnes repeated his warning that the frontage route would slice through the Bitner’s land, hampering their ability to operate a farm.    

Armstrong said he was concerned that would quash the ability of open space groups to set up a conservation easement there       

“If that opportunity goes away because we bisect that land and make the financing, the federal financing that can come in those opportunities—if that evaporates, than I’m afraid we lose that opportunity.  And I think most people in this room, regardless of which alignment you propose, if you knew that, as Ted Barnes articulated tonight, if the other option is to develop that land to put houses out there, rather than maintain it as open space, if that is foreclosed, I suspect that none of us would favor that position.”

But Doug Clyde favored the frontage road for a variety of reasons.    On the safety issue, he said that upper Silver Creek does have a second emergency access.

And he said the frontage alignment will better handle the vast amount of traffic that will pour through the area.         

“If we’re having 3500 cars a day, or 5500 cars a day going through either of these roads, doesn’t it make more sense to have that traffic pushed up against an existing highway, Interstate 80, one of the busiest routes, going from East to West, in the entire nation?  So where would you rather have the traffic?—through a bucolic meadow, or would your rather have it pushed up against an existing Interstate.  It’s unfortunate to consider putting a high-volume road through that existing meadow, teeing into Silver Creek Road.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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