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Residents and merchants contend a state plan to improve Redwood Road from 54th to 56th South causes more headaches than doing nothing.

More than 100 people attended a Thursday night public hearing the Utah Transportation Commission held to gather comments on the $350,000 proposal.The plan calls for installing traffic signals at 56th South on Redwood Road and at 19th West on 54th South. The light at 54th South and Redwood Road would be modified, and a concrete barrier erected from 54th South to I-215 and 54th South from Redwood Road to 19th West.

But merchants contend the concrete barrier, which has no areas for motorists to turn, would prevent customers from easy access to their stores. And many of those who spoke said doing nothing would be the best option.

"The effect of putting a median there has the effect of condemning the property" at 5770 S. Redwood Road owned by a family partnership, said Richard Skeen.

"I'd like to propose to you to leave it alone," said one area resident, adding, "Take your 300,000 bucks and patch the potholes so I don't have to realign my car."

Traffic congestion and accident prevention are the reasons the Utah Department of Transportation is looking at the plan, Tom Smith, UDOT District 2 preconstruction engineer, told the crowd in Taylorsville High School.

By 1987 counts, 29,300 vehicles crossed 54th South at Redwood Road. By 2005, Smith said, 44,000 vehicles are expected.

"These numbers represent our best projections, but we know even at this present day they can be exceeded," he said.

Authorities responded to 35 accidents at that intersection in 1985. In 1987, 44 accidents were reported. "And many of those accidents are turning accidents."

The Harmon's group, representing 15 businesses, proposed an alternative plan in which turning lanes are interspersed along the concrete barrier to allow customers into the shopping centers.

"Highways should permit people to go where they want to go. They should not be herded, they should not be pushed where they want to go," said group representative Dan Bushnell.

Bushnell also urged the transportation agency to push more traffic onto I-215, which allows people to get places faster than on Redwood Road. That in turn would reduce congestion for shoppers.

"I think one of the worst possible things we can do is slap existing businesses in the face and say, `We don't care what you're doing for us,' " said Rep. Hugh Rush, D-West Valley, in urging Transportation Commission Vice Chairman Wayne Winters to approve the alternative plan.

A decision on the project is expected later this spring.