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A big joke: Sandy residents voice their frustrations about 9000 South expansion

Nov 02, 2017 04:16PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Many residents who attended the open house said this TRAX crossing on 9000 South is the main cause of traffic problems. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

Gallery: 9000 South [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Justin Adams | j.adams@mycityjournals.com

It sucks. It’s a big joke. A waste of money. This is what some Sandy residents had to say about a planned expansion of 9000 South from five lanes to seven.

The comments came at an open house held by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) seeking public feedback on the project that will add two additional lanes to 9000 South between State Street and 700 East.

The purpose of the project according to UDOT is to “address congestion during a.m. and p.m. peak periods, improve current operational performance and safety of intersections and accommodate future travel demand.”

However, many community members said the added lanes aren’t even needed between State Street and 700 East. The problem, they said, is between State Street and I-15.

“Things get jammed up from the freeway to State Street,” said Wendy Davis, a Sandy resident who attended the open house. “Once you get past State Street there isn’t a problem.”

Scott Cowdell, a member of the Sandy City Council, identified the train tracks on 150 East as the real problem. “I don’t really understand what this project is going to solve,” he said.

Many of those who attended the open house said the frequent passing of TRAX lines is the main cause of congestion along 9000 South. Some said the bar and caution lights could be timed more effectively.

Cowdell suggested the TRAX lines could stop before 9000 South to let traffic pass before proceeding. “We have a lot of smart people at UDOT and UTA so I don’t know why they can’t get together and say, here’s the time of day where the traffic is bogging up, so if you have a train going north or south and you hit 106th or 90th, stop and let the traffic thin out for a while, then go again.”

Representatives of UDOT said the project isn’t necessarily designed to address or solve a major current traffic problem, but that it is designed to prevent future congestion problems as the population along the Wasatch Front continues to rise. A 2014 study by the Utah Foundation estimated that Utah’s population could double by 2050.

One UDOT representative said that although the stretch between State Street and 700 East isn’t that bad right now, it could become much worse if they don’t do this project now.

The project is especially controversial for some people who own property along 9000 South. In order to widen the road, UDOT will utilize land that many homeowners believed was part of their property. UDOT purchased the property back in 1997 but didn’t do anything with it, leading some to believe it was simply part of their front yard.

“I put $4,500 into my yard because they told me that I have to take care of it,” said Robin Cowan, who has lived in her house for 25 years. She said that in the past she tried to figure out who exactly owned the nearly 15-foot stretch of grass in front of her fence, but to no avail. “I would call the city and they’d say the state hasn’t given it to us yet. I called the state and they said that they had given it to the city.”

One man who was in the midst of putting up Halloween decorations in his front yard, when asked what he thought of the situation, simply said, “It’s bull...” and pointed out how much of his yard would be taken away.

Many community members also expressed concern for how the road expansion will impact the safety of children who cross the road every day to get to Mount Jordan Middle School.

“Your number one job as a community council member is making sure there is a safe walking route for the kids to the school. Expanding this (road) is problematic. It creates unmitigated risk,” said Davis, whose children attended the school.

One UDOT representative responded by saying that they only had funding “to evaluate the signal timing to make sure that it’s lengthened for the kids,” and suggested that the city could look into acquiring funds from a national program to build a pedestrian overpass.  

Multiple people at the open house said 9000 South also used to have slow-down lights that would be used when children were going to and from school, but that they were recently removed.

Despite the criticism from the community, the $13 million project is scheduled to begin construction this spring and is expected to last for one year. 

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