Mayors in Davis County won't give a unanimous endorsement to a proposal to upgrade U.S. 89 to a full interstate freeway in order to obtain federal highway improvement funds.
The mayors of Layton and Farmington on Wednesday declined to go along with the endorsement, saying a freeway would have a devastating effect on their communities.Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, asked for the endorsement in a meeting last week with various city officials from Davis and Weber counties, saying it would be easier to obtain federal funds for an interstate project than the proposal to upgrade the highway to a limited access expressway.
At Wednesday's Davis Council of Governments meeting, Farmington Mayor Robert Arbuckle said a freeway would economically and aesthetically devastate his city and many other residential areas along its route.
A freeway interchange at U.S. 89 and Shepard Lane would put the Smith's grocery store - the city's largest sales tax producer - out of business, Arbuckle said. The mayor said he's also been getting strong negative reaction from citizens to an interchange proposed at Cherry Hills, which would destroy the University of Utah Extension Service gardens.
Layton Mayor James Layton said sentiment from his city's residents at public hearings has favored an expressway but not a freeway.
A freeway, with more lanes and more elaborate interchanges, would require more land and the removal of entire blocks of homes on the city's east side, Layton said. He opposes the concept.
Davis County planning staff member Wilf Sommerkorn said the information he received from Hansen's office is that funding to improve the highway depends substantially on affected city officials presenting a united front.
Hansen is scheduled to testify before a House committee to ask for funds April 26, Sommerkorn said. He has been told by Hansen's office that funds are more readily available for an interstate project than the current proposal of a limited access expressway, Sommerkorn told the mayors.
Building overpasses, limited access interchanges and other improvements to upgrade the four-lane highway are estimated at $75 million to $80 million. City officials are concerned that relying on state funds could stretch the project out for 15 to 20 years.
The COG endorsed the limited expressway concept a year ago and several public meetings have been held since then to review the project, but no money is currently available to begin construction.
Other than an interchange at Hill Field Road, which has been in the planning stage for several years, state highway officials say the U.S. 89 project is not even on the five-year project list for funding.