State transportation officials, local political leaders and citizen committees have all but hammered out a mutually acceptable document that will govern future Provo Canyon highway development.
Concerned groups met this week with the consulting firm of Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendorff to complete a supplemental environmental impact statement. Officials fine-tuned what has been called the modified multiuse alternative, Utah County Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck told the county Council of Governments on Thursday.The multiuse alternative is a four-lane divided highway designed for 50 mph traffic. The alignment will closely follow the existing highway and cost approximately $90 million.
It is one of four options proposed for a 22-mile stretch of U.S. 189 from the mouth of Provo Canyon to U.S. 40, south of Heber City.
A meeting of officials and groups concerned with highway development will be held Dec. 15 to discuss the impact statement and road design. The recommended design will be presented to the Utah Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration on Dec. 16.
The bad news, Beck said, is "it'll probably be about 18 months before we begin any construction up there."
Earlier Thursday, County Commissioner Gary Anderson said some development problems still must be worked out. The largest problem, he said, is deciding where to put a path for bikers and hikers.
The path will be designed during the road design. Anderson said officials will have little difficulty building the path from the canyon's mouth to Vivian Park but are having design problems beyond the park because the path would have to skirt the Heber Creeper line.
A possible solution, suggested County Engineer Clyde Naylor, would be to move the railroad depot from Vivian Park to Bear Canyon, located up the canyon near the Sundance turnoff.
"Whether it's a possibility or not would have to researched before we pinned it down," he said. Narrow areas between Bear Canyon and the park "would make it hard for the path and railroad to exist within the same bed. But there are a lot of good areas where the path can depart from the line and not be in wetlands."
Mike Broadbent, who runs the Chalet restaurant at the park, welcomed the suggestion. But Heber Creeper owner Lowe Ashton said he opposes such a move.
"I've been fighting that sucker for a year or two," Broadbent said. "It's just chaos when it (the train) shows up."
Because the Heber Creeper stops for only about 30 minutes, he said, passengers overrun his septic-tank restrooms but don't have enough time to eat at the restaurant.
"The impact is just too much to handle," Broadbent said. "The problem is just getting worse."
Ashton, however, said there isn't enough room for a depot at the Bear Canyon site, and cost of developing a parking lot there would be prohibitive.
"There's no land there. That's pretty ridiculous," he said. "That doesn't make any sense to me at all. That's my first reaction."
Ashton said the railroad right of way above Vivian Park is easily wide enough to accommodate the path.
"They would maybe need a barrier. But the train won't jump out at a hiker or biker like an errant car could do."
Besides, Ashton said, he recently signed a 20-year lease with the state for the easement.
"We would be reluctant to do that (move the depot) without a fight because it would hurt us. The farther we are from Utah County, the fewer passengers we would get from the area. You might say that I'm a little irked that they're discussing my future without my input."
Anderson said all options would be considered, and consulting firm officials said a separate study may be needed.
"There are things we can do without ruining the canyon and the railroad," he said.