To drastically improve safety and traffic flow, the Utah Department of Transportation is studying an improvement project for the intersection of 3200 South and U.S. Highway 89/91.
“U.S. 91 is very important to the local communities, to the entire Cache Valley, and so keeping that open for as free flow as possible on the roadway is important,” said Rod Terry, UDOT’s consultant project manager.
There have been 125 documented crashes in the area, resulting in two deaths and at least six serious injuries since 2010, leading UDOT to identify the area as hazardous. In 2013, UDOT filed a signal warrant to study the intersection, and three proposals were made to address safety concerns, traffic operations and to meet the recommendations in the Regional Transportation Plan.
After UDOT proposed three alternatives, Nibley, Logan and Cache County councils each unanimously selected a concept that would add a traffic light and realign the intersections at 3200 South — though Cache County Council Member Gordon Zilles abstained due to the fact the option selected will require UDOT to acquire land on his farm to realign the intersection.
In the last 50 years, there have been at least 15 different community members who were killed in the stretch of highway being studied, and there’s an accident where cars run off the road every month, according to Zilles.
“There have been multiple safety analyses, traffic analyses and other studies … in this area,” said Elisa Albury, UDOT’s environmental program manager, “and we do know that other improvements are needed that maybe go beyond just putting in a traffic light in this location.”
Just under 100 residents participated in a video conferencing meeting hosted by UDOT as part of the public comment period on Thursday, and the public commenting period is open until Tuesday. Albury said once needs have been identified, how to resolve them will be analyzed in the environmental study’s plan.
In addition to studying the resources present in the area, such as wetlands and endangered species, Albury said officials are hoping to learn from locals what other concerns the project should consider about the preliminary design.
“We’re not necessarily looking for a yes or no vote on what we’re showing you, but rather, are there elements that we should be considering that maybe we haven’t taken into account to date?” Albury said. “Are there things beyond safety issues, or you know, other other topics like that that we should be considering as we move this study forward?”
Several residents questioned the need to make any changes beyond the addition of a traffic light, but Albury and Andy Kitchen, another consultant manager for the project, said there is a multitude of traffic data on how the geometry of an intersection — such as the standard 90-degree angle — impacts safety.
“You have to remember that you’ve got different conflicts or different people converging on an intersection of the signal,” Kitchen said. “When we start to skew and modify and change alignments, it starts to make sight-distance and decision-distance for travelers more difficult. And it’s been well documented that safety becomes an issue, crashes and injuries increase.”
Zilles added that in the area being studied, there are currently “five places to enter the highway, and they’re all at a funny angle.”
Multiple business owners on Nibley Parkway said their road already has safety concerns. In fact, Dave Poulsen, who owns Poulsen Trailer Sales Inc., said he was seriously injured on the road, and Daniel Gerbec, who owns Zigg Design, said the intersection of Nibley Parkway and U.S. 89 is “wildly busy.”
“This plan will give the added traffic from the business park a safe entrance onto Highway 89,” he commented during the meeting. “However, the next problem is getting the business park traffic onto 3200 South safely.”
Gerbec said he’s concerned that without additional planning, the safety hazards will just be moved rather than prevented. A representative from Nibley said a road is being considered to safely connect the parkway, and Albury said any proposed roadway improvements in the local cities’ master plans will be taken into account in the traffic study conducted during the environmental study process.
Another resident asked if a roundabout had been considered, to which Terry replied “generally, roundabouts on high-speed facilities have to be extremely large, and we haven’t had very good luck with those.”
When asked if an overpass could be considered, Kitchen said in addition to the increased cost of production, more land would need to be acquired to construct either the roundabout or overpass, as a signal has a smaller “footprint.”
While he has accepted the necessity of the project to go through his farm, Zilles said his main concerns is the uncertainty of how much land will be needed to realign 3200 South.
“To this point, they tell me they can’t come up with a design until the environmental study is completed,” he said. “They know the approximate place, but you know, if you have a barnyard on one side of the road, and the house is on the other, inches matter.”
The environmental study is set to be completed and presented in a public hearing sometime in the fall, and the final design to be established in the winter. Right-of-way acquisition is projected to start in the spring of 2021 and construction of the project in September 2021.
All comments need to be submitted by Tuesday through the following means to be considered in the study:
UDOT’s website for the project: www.udot.utah.gov/3200Sintersection
Mail: Jacques & Associates, Attn: 3200 S Intersection, 331 N. 280 W., Orem, UT 84057