Capitol Hill neighbors and a member of the Salt Lake City Council don't like a plan to reconfigure the deadly Beck Street-Victory Road interchange.
The Utah Department of Transportation has proposed a traffic signal and squared-off intersection they believe will help decrease accidents as well as the amount of traffic diverted through the Capitol Hill neighborhood.However, residents and Nancy Pace, who represents the area on the City Council, aren't sure the proposal will reduce traffic on the route, which is particularly popular with Davis County commuters. They believe adding additional lanes of traffic will attract even more traffic into their residential areas.
"I am very distressed by it (the proposal)," said Pace. "I thought we were communicating with UDOT that we were looking at altering the path of a horrible intersection. We thought we would have one left-turn lane and other lanes straight through south."
She said that the residents are fighting the plan because the neighborhood is being destroyed by traffic. If anything, residents want traffic reduced.
Currently, a single unrestricted left-turn lane of traffic feeds from Beck Street south along Victory Road and another, which joins Beck Street without a stop, feeds north from Victory Road onto Beck Street.
During peak traffic periods, both lanes have registered traffic counts and speeds that rival I-15, with deadly consequences, according to John Leonard, Utah Department of Transportation engineer.
Leonard said the residents haven't completely understood UDOT's plan, which is set to go out for bid in October and probably begin construction next spring. He said despite the increase in lanes, the proposed traffic signal should maintain about the same amount of traffic into the area. The traffic signal is apt to change motorists' minds about using the route.
"People like to keep moving. Even if takes more time to get somewhere, there is a perception they get there faster if they are moving," said Leonard, explaining the plan, which includes three unobstructed southbound lanes on 300 West.
For southbound Victory Road drivers there will be two left-turn lanes controlled by a signal off Beck Street. Traffic will then be directed up a double lane on Victory Road. The road will then merge into a single lane about 700 feet up the Victory Road hill.
Northbound traffic coming down Victory Road also will encounter a similar double lane, but it will be controlled at the bottom of the hill by the signal, and only right turns will be allowed. That is intended to decrease accidents that have occurred where Victory Road merges with Beck Street.
While the plan will allow about the same amount of southbound traffic during the morning rush hour, the northbound lanes will not handle the current unrestricted traffic flow in the evening traffic peak.
Leonard hopes the new configuration will convince motorists to take alternate routes, including 300 West or 400 West.
Some residents, including neighborhood activist Hermoine Jex, see something more sinister in UDOT's plans. She sees a four-lane road eventually wending its way up Victory Road and around the state Capitol.
"The state Capitol is an important site. It must not be surrounded by a freeway. If four lanes began at Victory Road and Beck, they will eventually absorb all of Columbus (Street). The freeway must stop at Beck and Victory Road," she said.
Leonard said in his personal opinion, and not that of the department, residents aren't likely to see the continuation of the four-lane road around the Capitol or even beyond the proposed 700 feet up Victory Road.
"We have to ask ourselves, `When the traffic gets to Columbus where does it go?' " he said.
He said it would be an expensive and controversial proposition to cut a bigger road around the Capitol.
One reason for the concern about the eventual expansion of Victory Road to the Capitol is the state has purchased two homes near the intersection of Columbus Street and 500 North. Leonard said depending on the effectiveness of the Victory-Beck improvements, the state may someday enlarge and flatten the Columbus Street intersection and install a signal.
Pam Card, chairwoman of the Capitol Hill Community Council, said after seeing the UDOT plan she feels like the residents were "misled, cheated and lied to."
She would like to see an end to bumper-to-bumper traffic through her neighborhood - particularly between 4:30 p.m. and about 6 p.m. on weekdays.
"Pedestrians can't even get across the street,"she said.
She worries now that UDOT will simply do as they wish.
"We are totally hopeless," Card said.