Highland east meets west map

Residents in the northern part of Utah County are petitioning the Utah State Legislature and the Utah State Developmental Center Board to move forward on installing a much-needed east/west connector road.

Dubbed the Murdock Connector, the road would be a three-lane road connecting State Route 74 (5300 West) and North County Boulevard (4800 West in Highland). The current proposed alignment of the new road isn’t set in stone, but currently would start across the street from Harvey Boulevard and continue west to 9860 North. The only available connectors that go east and west for that area now are State Street (U.S. Highway 89) and State Road 92.

“A lot of different through routes have been have been looked at, but this location makes the most sense,” said Highland Mayor Mark Thompson.

Robert Shelton, the American Fork city councilman who initiated the petition, said the road will be nothing like five-lane, higher speed North County Boulevard. But it will relieve some of the congestion that that road experiences on a daily basis.

Thompson and Shelton said the purpose of the petition is to let the Legislature know how many residents in the north county area support the road. They hope to present it to Utah Rep. Michael Kennedy, R-Alpine, in time for the next legislative session, so it can go through the legislative process.

The proposed road has been on Mountainland Association of Governments’ transportation plan for decades, and all parties agree on the need for the road. But its alignment has some unique roadblocks to completion.

“It’s important to respect the rights of the Pheasant Hollow residents, but the area is growing. We’re the fastest growing state in the nation. Development is coming to the area, and we already have emergency and connectivity issues in that area,” Shelton said.

The route goes through Utah State Developmental Center land. The county would need to purchase a narrow strip of the center’s land, but there are some unique regulations governing usage of that land. These would need to addressed and mitigated before any money would ever change hands.

This could be financially beneficial for the center, Shelton said, but it is a decision entirely up to the USDC board. The land is important to the future of the center, potentially for income, but also for development projects targeted to the center’s disabled population. Its limited size means it must be managed the best possible way for the long-term benefit of those with disabilities.

Parts of the Pheasant Hollow subdivision will also be adversely affected by the road’s route. In anticipation of this, Highland city officials already bought two homes in the road’s path years ago. But the connector will also require approval by the Pheasant Hollow homeowners association, because the subdivision’s small neighborhood park is also in the road’s pathway.

“Pheasant Hollow looks down on the Fox Hollow Golf Course, and we have a very quiet, beautiful area,” said Stephen Babb, president of the Homeowners Association of Pheasant Hollow.

Babb said that while residents are concerned about the effects the road might have on their area, they understand the need for an east/west connector. If the road routes into subdivision land, they hope there will be thoughtful mitigation to protect homeowners’ home and quality of life values.

“But we’re also citizens of Highland ourselves, and we take that into account as well. Our concern is we just want to be included in the process,” Babb said.

Shelton said the petition is one of the the first steps to get that process moving along.

“We really need to get all parties in place and have an honest, rational discussion on how to get this road finished,” Shelton said.

Money has already been set aside for the project — to the tune of $4.5 million. Once the road is complete, it will be owned and maintained by Highland, and will effectively connect American Fork all the way through to State Road 146 in Cedar Hills. The completed project would cut five miles off an ambulance trip to American Fork Hospital for south Highland residents, and would provide ease of access to Lone Peak High School, the LDS Church’s Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple and several area commercial centers.

“We see the road as the only method of getting better transportation through that area,” Thompson said. “This design is the only clear path between three state highways.”

Less than a mile in length itself, the road still has miles to go before it is a reality.

“There are a lot of interesting challenges and competing good there. Until all of those are decided, a connector won’t happen,” Babb said.

To find out more about the petition, visit www.change.org/p/utah-state-legislature-support-building-the-murdock-connector.

Karissa Neely reports on Business & Community events, and can be reached at (801) 344-2537 or kneely@heraldextra.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DHKarissaNeely