SALT LAKE CITY — In 21 years from now, Weber County’s population will jump by 63%, Davis County’s will increase by 33% and a transportation study area that encompasses both counties will skyrocket by 80%.

If popular arterial transportation corridors aren’t improved, and the West Davis highway remains on the drawing board, transportation planners with the Wasatch Front Regional Council have some dire predictions:

  • Vehicle miles traveled in congestion will jump by 246%.
  • Delays by motorists will increase 148%.
  • Total lane miles traveled in congestion go up by 65%.

Progress on the West Davis highway, however, is quietly unfolding through property acquisition for the right of way, and the planned selection of a design-build firm that will facilitate an expected completion date in 2023.

The completion of the highway is expected to stave off an anticipated 148% increase is lost productivity (per day) by motorists stuck in traffic and ease a more than 10% reduction in highway speeds caused by traffic jams, according to the regional council’s study.

The Utah Department of Transportation’s project director for the highway, Rex Harris, said the $800 million highway, during this first phase of funding, begins at its southern end near Glovers Lane in Farmington with new ramps from I-15 and Legacy Highway and ends at 4500 West in West Point with the planned extension of state Route 193.

Currently, state Route 193 T-bones at 3000 West in Clinton.

Although the four-lane divided highway — similar to Legacy with low noise pavement and low lighting to minimize night sky impacts — could extend further into Davis and Weber counties and wrap through Hooper and West Haven, Harris said there is no money on the table for that extension.

Northbound traffic moves slowly during rush hour on I-15 near Antelope Drive in Layton on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. | Kristin Murphy

He added there is not a timeline for funding to be available, and a lengthy environmental review process would begin again.

It took seven years for the study team to complete the environmental review for this leg of the planned 19-mile highway, with 51 route alternatives developed and studied for the greatest potential to minimize impacts. The Federal Highway Administration ultimately settled on the route called Alternative B1 Wetlands Avoidance.

While there may be some ground overturned in the fall of 2020, Harris said the bulk of the construction will start in the spring of 2021.

The transportation agency has acquired 70% of the land necessary for the highway right of way from willing sellers and without having to use eminent domain. The highway will be constructed low to the ground except where it will pass over cross streets.

Unlike Legacy Highway that had its construction stalled for years because of expensive and controversial litigation, Harris said the planned West Davis Corridor is not encountering nearly that level of resistance.

“Not everybody is happy as to how things turned out, but I think there has been consensus the process was fair, and we arrived at the best solution possible that was out there,” he said.

Davis County Commission Co-chairwoman Lorene Miner Kamalu recalls a time years ago when the West Davis Corridor became a topic of conversation for concerned west-side county residents in the communities of Kaysville and Layton.

Kamalu, who was on the Kaysville Planning Commission at the time, said residents in that city called the transportation agency and requested a meeting with one of the project planners.

She said the meeting happened in someone’s backyard, amid the mosquitos, but the transportation representative answered questions for a couple of hours.

She praised that kind of transparency, and noted that leaders in both Davis and Weber counties are now working to improve jobs opportunities and improve infrastructure as growth continues to present challenges. She said public transit needs more expansion, and people need greater opportunities for teleworking

“The improvement to I-15, the West Davis Corridor and changes to U.S. 89 are all part of the growth that is coming and to help smooth out some of the challenges we are already see,” she said.