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UDOT releases comments, updated plans for Heber bypass

heber bypass routes udot 1-18-23.jpg
UDOT is reviewing five routes for a U.S. Highway 40 bypass around Heber City. Two of those, pictured right and labeled WB-3 in orange and WB-4 in blue, have drawn the ire of residents who say they would damage one of the Heber Valley's cherished open-space areas.

This week, planners for the proposed highway bypass in the Heber Valley released hundreds of public comments on the project.

While the fate of the highway bypass project to move traffic away from Heber City Main Street is still far from a final decision, the project team published feedback and an update on the study.

As they study five potential road designs, Utah Department of Transportation representatives said they’re reviewing public opinion and taking it into consideration.

People submitted comments on the subject in writing to UDOT during public comment periods in June and July 2022.

Many of the nearly 450 comments focused on the road designs that travel the full length of the North Fields. While the majority of responders said the state should not choose those options, plenty of others said that would be the best way to reduce traffic.

Wasatch County Heber City North Fields
Ben Lasseter
While some in Wasatch County support building a road through the North Fields to decrease Main Street traffic congestion, others say the move would tarnish the Heber Valley's "crown jewel."

Opponents said a road there would disturb or ruin one of the Heber Valley’s most cherished open spaces and the farms, wetlands and ecosystems there.

Others encouraged a wide range of actions, such as abandoning the project entirely, building a tunnel underneath Heber City and building bike lanes.

“They’re concerned about the North Fields, of course,” UDOT project manager Craig Hancock told KPCW, “but there are also concerns about making sure that we have traffic moving [in] the future, and they're concerned about the growth in the area.”

He encouraged the public to keep sharing opinions, even when a formal public comment period is not occurring.

The project is in a phase of reviewing the environmental impacts of the five designs.

Hancock said UDOT realized previous designs would have run through a future power station and more wetlands area than intended, and altered subsequent designs to reflect those considerations.

He said the team adjusted two of the roads (WB-3 and WB-4) — those are the options that run through all of the North Fields.

“The numbers came back much higher than we had initially assumed in our graph. We reevaluated WB-3 and -4 and shifted those alignments to try to minimize the impacts to the wetlands.”

Hancock said the team hasn’t determined what the specific impacts on the wetlands would be. He said that comes later in the study.

This summer, UDOT planners expect to announce a plan with the road they intend to build. They’ve also told local governments construction likely wouldn’t begin for potentially another decade.

A link to the new information is available at hebervalleyeis.udot.utah.gov.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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