Heber Valley residents comment on bypass, other proposals to decrease Main Street congestion
Reacting to increasing population and road congestion, the Utah Department of Transportation is looking to reroute traffic from Heber City Main Street. It asked for input from the community - and got hundreds of responses.
Throughout last fall, UDOT received more than 600 comments during a public comment period on 13 proposals for how to get traffic off of Heber City’s Main Street, which is also US Highway 40. The agency said it would narrow down options by late May, then hold another public comment period ahead of finalizing plans.
In those public comments, people overwhelmingly opposed moving Highway 40 to the east side of town since that would send highway traffic past schools.
In another recurring message, many residents also opposed running a new road the length of the valley through the North Fields west of Heber City. Some referred to those 3,000 acres of farmlands as Wasatch County’s “crown jewel” for its beauty and uninterrupted view of Mount Timpanogos.
Although he lives in southwestern Heber City near where a new road could be built, resident Darryl Bosshardt says he sees that western bypass as the best option. That’s because it would begin at the northern entry to the Heber Valley and circle around Heber City, circumventing traffic from population growth that’s expected to arrive north of downtown Heber.
“If we're going to build a road, we ought to really make it a bypass road and take it all the way out,” Bosshardt says. “Although it goes through the North Fields, to me, if it was done right, that would be a much more logical option if we're going to invest the hundreds of millions or whatever that price tag comes to.”
He also says it’s a complicated issue, and he’s glad he won’t be the person to make the final decision.
Dan Simmons, who lives in the North Fields, says a road through the fields would bisect his property and his neighbors’, causing environmental harm and destroying elements of the area’s beauty. He prefers one of UDOT’s western bypass proposals that reconnects with Highway 40 just north of Heber City.
Trudy Simmons, Dan’s wife, has another take. She says she’s recently come around to supporting options for improving traffic flow through the city with new improvements to existing roads. Those UDOT proposals include adding lanes to Main Street and moving all southbound traffic to 100 West, among others.
She says to her, the best option may be working with what the city already has: a Main Street built on Highway 40.
“We have to ask ourselves, what is the least worst option, because none of them are really good,” she says. “There's a growing number of people who are actually supporting no bypass, but also letting highway 40 be what it originally was. And that's the highway. What are we willing to give up? Are we willing to give up the northfields? And all they represent? Are we willing to have a bypass going through neighborhoods near schools on the east side? Or are we willing to consider a different, really kind of radical idea about downtown?”
UDOT project manager Craig Hancock says his office is taking all public input, environmental studies and other perspectives into account ahead of releasing which alternatives UDOT will continue to study.