Offshore freeway proposal added to Lehi’s Master Transportation Plan
On Oct. 26, the Lehi Planning Commission recommended an off-shore freeway on the north side of Utah Lake as a solution to high traffic in the area, specifically on Pioneer Crossing.
That recommendation was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Lehi City Council, and a future offshore freeway will be added to Lehi City’s Master Transportation Plan.
The addition of the offshore freeway to Lehi’s master plan was spurred by the Utah Department of Transportation’s Pioneer Crossing Corridor Study, which found that to meet the area’s population needs and decrease high levels of traffic coming from Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, Pioneer Crossing would need to be converted into a six- or eight-lane freeway in addition to adding a six-lane freeway across the middle of Utah Lake.
A freeway through Pioneer Crossing would greatly affect Lehi residents, which is why an additional option for alleviating traffic was added to the master plan. UDOT’s next step in the process of finding ways to alleviate traffic is to do an environmental impact study on the potential places a freeway and other connecting roads could be built.
Luke Seegmiller, Lehi City traffic engineer, explained Tuesday that adding the offshore freeway option to the plan means that it will be included in UDOT’s environmental impact study. Lehi is hoping for the offshore freeway to replace the need for the freeway on Pioneer Crossing. “That’s what we are proposing to add to our master plan tonight, and the whole purpose is just so UDOT will study it,” he said.
Seegmiller explained due to population growth projections, there is a need for two freeways, so Lehi hopes the freeways will be the offshore freeway and the one that goes across Utah Lake. The reason Lehi prefers the Offshore to the Pioneer Crossing freeway “is just for the quality of life for Lehi City residents,” Seegmiller said.
Seegmiller put together build-out population projections for Lehi, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain to illustrate the need for the additional freeways. The projections are as follows: Lehi, 90,000 to 185,000; Saratoga Springs, 45,000 to 160,000; Eagle Mountain, 50,000 to 250,000. This would mean Saratoga Springs will more than triple in build out and Eagle Mountain would grow five times the current amount in build out.
Currently, there are 52,000 to 58,000 trips a day on Pioneer Crossing. Seegmiller explained the road is only made for 35,000 trips each day. Included in UDOT’s study was a chart outlining how different freeways or additional roads would affect the capacity of travel demands.
No-build leaves the demand for travel over capacity. With a seven-lane arterial with traditional intersections, capacity would be reached by 2025-2026, according to the study. With a seven-lane arterial with high-capacity intersections, capacity would be reached by 2033-2034. With a six-lane expressway, capacity would be reached by 2043-2044. With an eight-lane expressway, the travel demand would stay under capacity through 2050.
Seegmiller said even with the improvements UDOT suggests, and even with an eight-lane freeway, it still may not be enough to handle the growing population.
The offshore freeway, which is a potential option for UDOT to study, would stretch from Pony Express Parkway and Mountain View Corridor to connect with the Vineyard Connector, a proposed freeway between Interstate 15 and Utah Lake.
A Lehi resident spoke at the City Council meeting to express her concerns about a freeway across Pioneer Crossing since it would be right next to her home and affect the way citizens live. While UDOT makes the final decision on where a freeway will be placed, the council explained to her that they are doing their best to push forward the offshore freeway as an alternative option.
Seegmiller said the Pioneer Crossing freeway would have “big impacts to our residents and our property.” UDOT’s study included estimated impacts to property, and Seegmiller shared them in the City Council meeting. Construction of a six-lane expressway would partially impact 40-45 residential properties and fully impact 45-50, and also partially impact 20-25 commercial properties and fully impact another 10-15. Construction of an eight-lane expressway would partially impact 30-35 residential properties and fully impact 55-60 more, and partially impact 20-25 commercial properties and fully impact 10-15.
In addition, Seegmiller said the freeway on Pioneer Crossing would have “Big impacts to our master plan; it pretty much turns it on its head and we have to redo a lot of things. … (There are) big problems with that.”
He explained if a freeway were there, it would potentially only have two interchanges, at 2300 West and 500 West. This means the other roads that lead to Pioneer Crossing would no longer have access and instead would go over or under the freeway. This is a large reason why Lehi’s Master Transportation Plan would need to change drastically.
Concerns have also been expressed about the offshore freeway affecting the environment. Seegmiller explained, “I know there are concerns with wetlands and how they’d be impacted. So, that would certainly be something that would need to be studied and mitigated against.” That is part of the reason it is being put on the Master Transportation Plan, he said, so that it will be included in UDOT’s environmental impact study.
Seegmiller said Lehi does not have a timeline for the freeways but explained that the Mountainland Association of Governments, which does regional transportation planning, has a timeline on its plan for a freeway in the middle of the lake to happen between 2043 and 2050, and for the Pioneer Crossing freeway to happen between 2033 and 2042. These timelines are only tentative and subject to changes.