Construction has begun on a pedestrian bridge that will span Interstate 15 near Utah Valley University that was originally expected to be open this past August.
“We are excited to get going,” said Rob Clayton, the director of the Utah Department of Transportation Region Three.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge took place in June 2018. Since then, the site has mostly stayed untouched. At the time, the bridge was expected to cost $17 million and was touted as the longest, doubly curved, inverted Fink truss bridge in the world.
Both the budget, and the type of bridge that will span I-15, has evolved after UDOT discovered that the original design would have been complicated and costly.
“There were a lot of challenges and concerns they had at building this type of bridge,” said Geoff Dupaix, the senior communications manager for UDOT Region Three.
Instead, the bridge will incorporate design elements to make it look unique.
“It’s a more traditional design, one we are more familiar with and has been demonstrated successful,” Clayton said.
Crews needed railroad approval before they could begin construction. The change in design also delayed the project, as did the need to secure additional funding.
The bridge is being funded through $4 million from the Utah Transit Authority, $6 million from UVU and $20.7 million from UDOT.
When complete, the 1,000-foot bridge will link the Orem FrontRunner Station to UVU. It will include a 15-foot wide, partially enclosed walkway that will feature heating elements in the floor to allow for snow removal. It will be accessible to both pedestrians and cyclists, and will have elevators and staircases at either end.
UVU will have free parking on the bridge’s west side.
The majority of the construction work is not expected to impact traffic. I-15 is anticipated to briefly close at night while crews place bridge beams and set concrete. UDOT, which is overseeing construction, will provide two weeks’ notice about upcoming closures.
Vineyard and Payson were the only cities in the state to pilot a new form of voting for their municipal elections called ranked-choice voting.
Ranked-choice voting, an alternative voting method proposed by the Utah State Legislature in 2018, lets voters rank candidates in a municipal race from first to last. If no candidate receives over 50% of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes go towards whoever a voter’s second choice was. The process is repeated for multiple rounds until a candidate receives a majority of votes.
Six cites originally opted to participate in the ranked-choice pilot program but backed out due to concerns about how to educate voters on the unorthodox process. Others cities in Salt Lake County cited a lack of elections equipment designed to handle ranked-choice voting as their reason for not participating in the pilot program.
Vineyard City Recorder Pamela Spencer said she received a few calls from voters who had questions about ranked-choice voting, but that they understood after she explained the process.
“I don’t think there were too many people that were confused,” Spencer said.
Spencer, who advocated for Vineyard to try out the ranked-choice method, said she saw the pilot as a success.
“For me personally, I think it went great,” the city recorder said. “I don’t think there were any more hiccups than you would’ve had in a general regular election.”
One race for a seat on the Vineyard City Council went through seven rounds of tabulation, according to unofficial election results from Utah County. Cristy Welsh was the apparent winner, accumulating 587 votes, 53.9%, in the seven rounds, although an official winner won’t be declared until the county completes its canvass of election results on Tuesday.
In the race for another city council seat, incumbent councilman Tyce Flake earned 654 votes, 61.5%, after six rounds of tabulation.
There are a number of benefits to using a ranked choice voting system, Spencer said. For one, cities are not required to hold primary elections, shortening the election cycle and ending the messy process of eliminated candidates receiving write-in votes in the general election.
“We don’t get a lot of people that vote in the primary election,” said Spencer. “But what they don’t realize is that they are nominating those people to move on to the general election. So if they don’t vote in the primary, they could risk the person (they voted for) not moving on … and you do away with that by having a single election.”
By only having a general election, cities can also save money, Spencer added.
Ranked-choice voting comes at no additional costs to cities in Utah County since the ranked-choice ballots are scanned by the same elections equipment as regular ballots, Deputy Utah County Clerk Josh Daniels said in April.
Another benefit of the voting method, according to Utah Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, who sponsored the bill letting cities opt to use ranked choice, is that candidates have to appeal broadly to all voters rather than to their narrow base.
“You can’t just go after the base as much,” the Daily Herald reported Roberts saying in January, “because you want second- and third-place votes.”
Spencer said the city will have a better idea of how the ranked-choice voting pilot went after Utah County completes its canvass.
“I don’t know if (Vineyard) will continue to use it as a method,” said Spencer. “(But) I will promote it.”
Payson city officials could not be reached to comment on how the ranked-choice voting pilot went in their city.
The number of reported human run-ins with black bears in Utah has nearly doubled since 2018, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reported on Monday.
As of Nov. 7, the DWR has received 53 reports statewide of incidents involving black bears, such as bears rumbling through garbage at campsites or in neighborhoods. In 2018, there were 27 black bear incidents reported.
Two incidents this year involved a bear making physical contact with a person, according to a DWR press release.
The area between Salt Lake City and Santaquin had some of the most reported bear incidents, along with Grand County and northern Zion National Park.
In June, a black bear wandered into a campsite in Hobble Creek Canyon and mildly injured a Boy Scout who was sleeping inside a tent. DWR officials later tracked down and euthanized the 2-year-old, 150-pound bear.
Days later, on June 20, the Utah Department of Natural Resources tranquilized and relocated a black bear that was seen wandering through residential areas on the edge of the Springville and Mapleton city borders.
“The most likely reason (for increased sightings) is that we have increased the number of black bears in the state over the last decade or so,” said Darren DeBloois, a game mammals coordinator with DWR.
DeBloois added that increased sightings this year does not necessarily indicate an upward trend, noting that there were even more black bear incidents in 2017.
“You must allow for some randomness,” Debloois said. “Some of this is due to local conditions each year like drought, the length of winter hibernations .... or a lack of natural foods, which can push bears into conflict situations in search of food.”
Most black bears in Utah begin hibernating in mid-November and re-emerge around March and April, the DWR press release states.
DeBloois said campers and canyon residents can prevent run-ins with black bears by denying them a food source.
“This can include a wide range of things like bird feeders (especially hummingbird feeders), pet food, unsecured garbage and coolers,” said DeBloois, as well as toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant.
Additional information about staying safe in bear country can be found at http://wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/bears.
The Utah Department of Public Safety opened a new driver’s license office in Springville on Monday, becoming the second driver’s license office in the county to offer full testing and licensing services.
Prior to Monday, the driver’s license office in Orem was the only place in the county where residents could take skills tests or apply for a commercial driver’s license (CDL). An office in Provo offers limited services such as license renewals or duplicates.
“Utah County, we all know, has been one of the fastest growing counties in the nation for quite a number of years,” said Chris Caras, director of the state Driver License Division. “One full-service office just could never meet the demands (of the growing county).”
The Springville office is currently staffed with 24 employees, Caras said, some of whom are new and others who transferred from the Orem office.
The new employees spent time working and training in the Orem office, Caras added. “They’ve already got a couple of months of experience behind their belt.”
Driver Services Bureau Chief Todd Holdbrook said construction on the new building began in March and went “pretty smoothly.”
“I think everyone’s excited that the Springville area (now has) an office,” Holbrook said.
Monday morning was steady but not overly busy at the new driver’s license office, according to Caras.
Kimberly Hutchings and Brady Plumb drove to Springville from Santaquin to get Plumb, 15, a learner’s permit.
Hutchings said the staff were “really friendly” and walked them through the permit process. “They told us exactly where to go (and) what to do,” said Hutchings. “It was nice.”
Hutchings normally goes to the Orem driver’s license office but wanted to experience the new location. “It’s always busy in Orem,” she said. “I was just glad that there wasn’t a long line (in Springville).”
Chidiebere Ihuoma, of Provo, visited the Springville office Monday morning to renew his driver’s license. He didn’t know about the new office, but mapped it on his phone and was routed to the recently opened location.
Caras said people on social media have expressed excitement for there being another full-service driver’s license office in the county.
“This is going to be a much greater service to the community (than the Provo office) because of the testing that we do here,” Holbrook added.
The Springville office is located at 2277 W. 700 South. Scheduling for skills and hearing tests will open on Nov. 25 and appointments will begin on Dec. 2, a Driver License Division press release states.
Hearing tests can be scheduled by calling (385) 448-8919 and skills tests by calling (385) 448-8920. To schedule a commercial skills test, call (385) 448-8918.