Construction on North County Blvd. moving ahead
North County Boulevard is being constructed to allow traffic in north Utah County better access, including to the freeway. Phase I is expected to be complete this summer, with Phase II finished by next summer. Courtesy graphic

AMERICAN FORK -- The ubiquitous orange cones and barrels will soon begin a migration.

Construction on the second phase of North County Boulevard is expected to begin between mid-April and the first of May to build a five-lane road between State Street and the Murdock Canal. It follows the road which is 1100 East (American Fork), 2000 West (Pleasant Grove) and 4800 West in Utah County.

About 100 people attended an open house Thursday at Dan Peterson School, which is on the affected route. Representatives from Utah County and Horrocks Engineers were on hand to answer questions and take comments from the public.

"We appreciate the people attending and voicing their concerns," project coordinator Glen Tanner said at the conclusion. Many of those concerns were about safety and property that would be taken for the project.

Kim Wong, principal of Dan Peterson School, said the speed limit would be too fast.

"I don't think that 40 mph in a school zone is safe," she said. Peterson School serves special needs students from Alpine School District. "If a student goes out and doesn't understand traffic, there could be tragic consequences. I am speaking as a mother and as a principal."

She said she was pleased with one aspect of the plan -- that they're keeping the crosswalk between the school and American Fork Hospital.

As the current road is widened, there will be some places where residents will lose property, including fences and mailboxes. Dave Dillman of Horrocks explained.

"We are working with the Post Office about the boxes," he said. "There are a lot of agreements being made with property owners to make sure they are put back whole when we are done."

Some properties have been more affected than others.

"We have bought a few houses," Utah County Engineer and Public Works director Richard Nielson said.

Not all homeowners were happy about the sales or pending sales.

"I never would have bought the house," Laura Carnagie said of her home on the west side of 1100 East, north of Peterson School. "We have owned the house almost four years. It was not disclosed when we bought the house."

She and her husband Scott agree about the need to improve the road though.

"For the amount of traffic, the road needs to be widened," she said. They said they are concerned about safety, citing examples of two bus stops for junior high students on the east side of the street, requiring students to cross the busy road, and no sidewalk planned for the west side of the street between Queens Drive (600 North) and 700 North.

The family put their home on the market and was approached by a representative of Utah County more than three years ago. He told them the home was in the path of imminent destruction.

"The county came and did three appraisals on our house," Laura Carnagie said. "Each went subsequently lower in price." She said the new road would take between 12 and 18 feet of their driveway.

Some of the cones and barrels will remain in place between the canal and State Road 92, north of Phase II, as the first phase is still under way.

"We had some delays due to utility conflicts," Tanner said. "We are now on schedule for that phase to be completed the end of summer of 2011."

By that time work should have begun in the second phase. Utah County, which is doing the project, will advertise for bids around the beginning of March, evaluate those at the end of the month, and select a contractor for the work, which could begin as early as mid-April.

"The project aims to improve safety, north-south mobility within the county and emergency service and response time -- including better access to American Fork Hospital," Tanner said in a written statement. "This important corridor will also interconnect users to multiple cities from Alpine to Lindon."

Michael Olson, CEO and administrator of American Fork Hospital, said the improvement would be helpful.

"We look at it as a short-term, temporary inconvenience for a great, long-term benefit," he said in an interview. "It will make it more accessible and easier to get to the hospital in the long run and improve traffic flow to the interstate. This will make that more functional all the way up."

The temporary inconvenience he mentioned was during the construction phase.

"It will be difficult at times to get in and out," he said. "They have assured us they will always keep two access points open. We will make sure ambulances have alternative routes to get here."

Tanner said the county would make a similar effort to minimize the impact to other businesses and residents in the area.

The hardships will be worth it, Olson said.

There will also be traffic signals installed.

"There will be several signals added and we hope to alleviate congestion at some intersections," Tanner said. All on North County Boulevard, they are at 50 South, 300 North and 700 North. He was unsure of the anticipated installation date for the signals, but said some could be placed this summer and all would all be in place by the end of summer 2012.

Highland Mayor Lynn Ritchie said he was enthusiastic about the construction.

"Let's get it built," he said in an interview. After a slow start on the first phase of the project, he said he was hoping for results soon. He said he had heard Phase I would be finished in May. That covers from SR 92 to the canal.

"It will be a welcome highway for Highland," he said. "It really gives us better access out of our subdivisions in Highland." He said two lanes in each direction should provide easier access than one in each direction.

Ritchie said Highland was also working on putting together the Murdock Connector, an east-west corridor that would help move traffic from one side of Highland to the other.

"We are working with the county to get that completed," he said.