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Future of New Bingham Highway discussed

West Jordan says it isn’t proposing to close the state road

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WEST JORDAN — City and state officials have different visions for the future of New Bingham Highway, and it's making some landowners, west-side residents and business owners nervous.

The Utah Department of Transportation held an open house Thursday at Copper Hills High School to get public input on the traffic and safety concerns along the highway, specifically from 2700 West to 6400 West.

But it was misinformation concerning a possible closure of New Bingham Highway (state Route 48) that prompted a few hundred people to show up, ask questions and share their opinions about the west-side highway.

"I don't know where that information came from," said Walt Steinvorth, a transportation planning manager for UDOT. "Closing S.R. 48 is not something UDOT is considering or something we have discussed."

Concerns about the closure of the highway likely are linked to West Jordan's long-range transportation plan, which calls for the northeast-to-southwest highway to be de-emphasized in favor of a grid system.

"Nobody's proposing to close it," said Tom Burdett, West Jordan's community development director. "We just want to realign it to an east-west street instead of a diagonal street."

City officials want to see 7800 South and 9000 South become the main thoroughfares for east-west travel on the west side.

"Road engineers don't like these diagonal roads," Mayor David Newton said. "They cause problems with how you come into them, how you go out of them, how you cross them and turn on and off of them. It just makes it harder to do. That's why they favor the grid system."

The West Jordan City Council approved a long-term transportation plan in July, outlining the grid system for the city's west side. Under the plan, New Bingham Highway essentially would become 8600 South and run east-west from 5600 South to state Route 111.

But New Bingham Highway is a state road, which means West Jordan has little say in how much or how little the road plays into future transportation plans.

UDOT's plans show the highway being widened and improved to handle future growth and traffic demands.

"UDOT's biggest concern is getting regional traffic around," said Wendell Rigby, West Jordan's director of engineering. "We want to be part of the discussions and let them know what our concerns are. But they're going to tell us how it's going to be used and how it's going to be assessed."

Several Copperton residents attended the open house Tuesday to oppose West Jordan's plans, saying New Bingham Highway is essential to the west-side township.

Kennecott Utah Copper officials also oppose West Jordan's plans because New Bingham Highway is the company's only designated truck route to the copper mine in Bingham Canyon.

"It's critical to our operations," said Larry Bunkall, Kennecott's assistant director of government and public affairs.

Mayor Newton said city planners have taken into account the needs of Kennecott and Copperton residents in its long-range plan.

Under the plan, 9000 South would be expanded to meet Kennecott's needs for hauling large equipment, instead of New Bingham Highway, he said. As for Copperton residents, they'll have several east-west options connecting to S.R. 111.

"We won't cut off anybody," Newton said. "We won't cut off Copperton. We won't cut off Kennecott Copper. There will have to be alternatives for this to work."

Steinvorth said state and city officials will need to work together, along with the Wasatch Front Regional Council, to discuss plans for New Bingham Highway. But neither West Jordan nor UDOT knows when that will happen.

"At some point we'll have to address it," Steinvorth said. "Right now, it's just informational."

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com