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Director of the Heber Valley Chamber Bureau Ryan Starks told KPCW they are hopeful their long time efforts to build a bypass road will be put on a fast track now that they have Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s endorsement. He says the Governor agrees that the economic revitalization efforts should include mitigating vehicle traffic on Heber’s Main Street.
Starks says the amount of traffic on Main Street is at a breaking point and that people don’t want to come and shop, dine, walk or bike in the area because it is so uninviting.
“UDOT has indicated the breaking point for this is 26,500 vehicles that currently, according to the most recent data, we have 33,000 vehicle trips per day. So we are in excess by about 7000 cars. Of the 33,000 vehicle trips per day, 600 are trucks and tankers.”
Starks led the effort to create a 10-point economic development plan for the Heber Valley which he says Governor Herbert delivered to the White House.
“One of those points was improve Main Street Highway 40. Make it more walkable, improve the bypass, and make sure we can plan for the future. Now to the credit of the counties and the cities, have been working on this for the past number of years and have been trying to raise money to build a bypass along the western corridor.”
Starks says they hope to exchange the jurisdiction of a six mile stretch of US 40 for a new bypass road that would circle around the west side of Heber City.
“Right off of Highway 40 as you’re approaching Heber City, there’s an area just past the UVU campus, there’s an area where you can veer out to the west so if you’re traveling south, it would be a western loop that would connect over to Highway189 just west of Southfield Ballpark.”
US Highway 40 falls under the jurisdiction of the Utah Department of Transportation. UDOT Public Information Officer John Gleason says the project is not on any of the future project lists which go out about four years. He doesn’t know if it is part of any specific long range plan.
“There’s a prioritization process and when we look at all the projects across the state, we basically look at what the need is, which ones need to be addressed, is the funding available. And where something like this would fall, I don’t have the answer for that. It’s something that everyone would like to see happen.”
Michael Mower is the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff. He says everybody is united in the ultimate goal but the challenge is funding and timing.
“Well, economic vitality and safety. You have a lot of trucks going through Heber City. That’s only going to increase as the population of the state and that region increases. So the goal is to make it as safe as possible. Bring continued economic vitality to downtown Heber City. Provide a safe alternative for trucks and other transportation.”
Mower says prioritizing the Heber Bypass project will be decided by the Governor appointed Transportation Commission.
Starks says he was told a new bypass road would take about 7000 vehicles off of Heber’s Main Street. The City and County has been working with private land owners to acquire the Rights of Way for a new bypass road. They’ve accumulated funds through Driver License renewals and vehicle registration fees to help pay for a new road. He says he hopes they will be able to tap into State Transportation funding and federal highway funding to get the project underway soon.