Transportation officials spent a lot of time calming northern county residents’ fears Wednesday during the Utah County Transportation Open House.
While many cities and government organizations had tables set up for the open house inside the Orem Senior Friendship Center, several residents came to discuss plans for the Vineyard Connector. Multiple north county residents crowded the Utah Department of Transportation’s table looking for answers about the connector’s route.
Brent Schvaneveldt, program manager with UDOT, spent a lot of time showing residents the alignment of the road, and answering worried questions about the timeline for the project and the process. The connector is envisioned as a six-lane north/south road from 800 North in Orem to Pioneer Crossing in Lehi, is meant to bypass the freeway, and allow residents to connect through the central part of the county more easily.
Most residents are fine with the majority of the path of the current proposed alignment for the connector, but American Fork and Lehi residents are concerned about the last section that connects into Pioneer Crossing. The current alignment has it running northward near the American Fork FrontRunner train station. This alignment was subject to a UDOT environmental study completed a few years ago.
But the American Fork City Council made some major waves recently with its proposal of an alternative path for that section of the connector. American Fork representatives at Wednesday’s event brought up concerns with the amount of traffic the UDOT alignment will put out onto an already busy section of American Fork’s Main Street. They also explained that the current road would bisect a master-planned transit-oriented development area, a detriment to the more pedestrian-focused goals for the area.
The American Fork alternative suggested route would cut more diagonally to the west, running outside of the transit oriented area. This path, though, would skirt near Lehi’s Spring Creek Ranch neighborhood, and bisect American Fork resident Jess Green’s property on the west end of 200 South.
Residents in the Spring Creek neighborhood shared their frustration and anger Wednesday night, speaking to UDOT officials, Mountainland Association of Government officials and American Fork city representatives. Green is very angry American Fork’s alternative route would go right through his land.
“Nobody’s happy about this, and making it work is going to be very difficult,” Green said. “That alignment they’ve got going through that intersection (a small intersection to the northwest of his land) is crazy.”
One woman from the Spring Creek neighborhood mentioned her son’s asthma, and said they opted for that specific neighborhood because it was surrounded by open agricultural-protected land and wetlands near Utah Lake. She shared with Schvaneveldt her concern about the alternative alignment running “right up against the homes” and its effect on the area’s air quality. Schvaneveldt encouraged residents to voice these concerns once UDOT actually starts the process of finalizing the path for the road.
Residents expressed frustration that American Fork only opened a small swath of non-protected agricultural land. They feel this forces UDOT to only look at that alternative alignment. Schvaneveldt said that is not the case, and explained that to create an alternate route for the Vineyard Connector, UDOT will have to reopen the environmental study again for the entire area.
“And we have to look at the whole area, all the options, not just that one,” Schvaneveldt said about the American Fork alternative. “We’ll study it, but that doesn’t mean we’ll go with that option. We’ve got to look at all options.”
Eileen Barron, UDOT region communication manager, said this phase of the connector is still at least 10 years away from funding and construction. UDOT is concentrating on the sections of the road further south, as the need is greater there at this point. But UDOT works with the cities, she said, to look at “development patterns” in the areas.
“In the future we know it will be needed, so we’re talking with cities right now,” she said. “But before anything is built, there will be a public process.”