BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
SYRACUSE — Just prior to a press conference Tuesday by a coalition of a dozen environmental groups and residents opposed to the West Davis Corridor, a flock of birds flew majestically over the Syracuse Arts Academy on the way to settling in for the summer.
If the road is built, hundreds of species of birds that frequent Farmington Bay could be in jeopardy because the road will be just 190 feet from the nature center at the bird refuge, Heather Dove, president of the Great Salt Lake Audubon told reporters.
Birds that stop at the refuge would be impacted by the noise, light and pollution and their numbers would diminish, hurting the unique ecosystem surrounding the Great Salt Lake, Dove said.
The coalition has banded together to express their opposition to the road they contend is not needed now and won’t be needed in the future, and to ask state officials to instead consider a “Shared Solution.”
The press conference was held in a soccer field just south of the arts academy, a school situated just a few hundred feet from one of the alternatives the Utah Department of Transportation is considering.
Tracy Silva, a member of Citizens for a Better Syracuse, told the media that if the highway were built next to the school, parents would pull their students.
“This could potentially shut down the school,” she said. “Approximately 75 people would now be out of jobs, over 1,000 children would be dropped back into the already overcrowded public school system.”
She said she spoke with Randy Jeffries, Utah Department of Transportation project manager for the West Davis Corridor about the impact the highway would have on the school.
“He informed me that UDOT did not consider the school an impact,” she said.
UDOT will release its draft Environmental Impact Statement on May 16. That will identify the agency’s locally preferred alternative.
Following the release of the EIS, there will be a 90-day comment period, in which the public is encouraged to review the EIS and comment. Comments will be reviewed and a preferred solution will be presented in the final EIS.
The final EIS will then be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, which will announce a record of decision in the spring of 2014.
Roger Borgenicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation, would like to see a no-build alternative approved. He presented figures compiled by his agency based on UDOT’s statistics that show the road is not necessary,
“Even in 2040, they will be using a fifth of the road they will be needing during full capacity hours in one area and only two-fifths in another area,” he said prior to the press conference. He based his numbers on those provided by Wasatch Front Regional Council, the local transportation planning agency, he said.
“We can do a better job of providing mobility, allowing people to drive slower and travel faster,” he said.
However, UDOT has said that growth in population in the west Davis area is projected to increase by 75 percent between now and 2040 and employment should increase by 67 percent.
“Large increases in either of these factors over an extended period will substantially increase travel demand,” information provided by the West Davis Corridor team said.