Officials Eye Three Different Avenues To Potentially Fund Heber Bypass Environmental Study

The next step in the Heber Main Street bypass is funding an environmental study.

Heber and Wasatch County elected officials are prioritizing the project meaning they’re looking at several different locations to get the funds for the study.

Shawn Seager is the Director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization with Mountainland Association of Governments. Mountainland is a government organization part of an interlocal agreement between Summit, Wasatch and Utah counties. Seager says that Heber’s Main Street has an average of 32,000 trips per day.

“We’re having failure on that roadway. So, you’d give it a level of service ‘F’. In particular, during the weekend we have quite a bit of recreational trips coming through Heber City through Main Street from Strawberry Reservoir and from the surrounding Uinta mountains. Those additional trips on the weekend are creating a failure state of that road.”

Seager says that if left unchanged Heber’s main street will average 45,000 trips a day in 2050. If the bypass is built it’ll nearly cut that number in half.

“When we modeled a bypass road around Heber Main Street and get those through trips off of Main Street, the bypass road it will attract 20,000 trips a day in the year 2050. 20,000 trips a day which is about what Legacy Parkway is in Davis County.”

The next step in the bypass project,  is an environmental study.

“The North Fields area north of Midway Lane is very wet and we have a lot of wetlands in that area. We’ve determined that we need a more thorough environmental study to delineate those wetlands and to try to figure out a route that’s going to work in those North Fields. That the Corps of Engineers would accept for construction of a public road. In that discovery process we’ve determined that we’ve need to go into a more in-depth environmental study.”

With growth around the state UDOT was cautious in prioritizing the bypass but that’s changed after discussion with local elected officials. Earlier this week UDOT Region 3 amended their annual state transportation improvement program workshop request to include the $4 million environmental study.

“UDOT has recognized the impending development and eminent development plans that exist in the corridor. Including the potential of a new high school and new residential construction and commercial construction that could occur. Start to eliminate some of those alignment alternatives that we’ve been studying. UDOT has recognized the need to focus on an environmental study and we’ll see if it actually does get funding as it goes through that STIP workshop here in April.”

Since the funds have not been secured local officials are also looking at other ways to secure the funding if Region 3’s request is denied.

“The local governments want to pursue as many different ways to get this money in place as possible. Not put all their hopes or eggs in one basket but pursue parallel paths to put that money in place. One is through a legislative earmark of funds for this environmental study. We’ve also been talking about making an application to the community impact board that utilizes mineral extraction fees to fund community development projects. In this case the Uintah Basin impacts Heber’s Main Street heavily in that a lot of oil trucks come through Heber’s Main Street. So you could create a logical nexus between the CIB funds and Heber Main Street. There’s probably three different paths there to try and get that $4 million in place.”

Even after the environmental study is funded it’ll still years away until the bypass is finished.

“We’re still looking at probably three to five years out from now until we have an approved environmental document. Then probably another five to 10 years until we actually get money to construct something. This would be a bigger project. Would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars to construct. Maybe $100 to $200 Million to get something like that in place out there. It would be a significant project for UDOT to fund and to try to put resources to.”

Seager also noted an open house for the project scheduled on the evening of February 20th at the Heber Valley Elementary School.

See the original story at KPCW.org.