Summit County worries about impacts of improved chain-up area on I-80
August 25, 2018
The Utah Department of Transportation is looking to improve a dirt chain-up area off of Interstate 80 near the Silver Creek Junction, but the upgrades have Summit County officials worried the newly paved stop will invite more traffic to an already-congested area.
The chain-up area near the Bell's Silver Creek gas station has been in use for nearly 20 years for 18-wheelers and big rigs. John Gleason, public information officer for UDOT, said the goal of the current project is to improve safety along the interstate.
"We wanted to make it more convenient and safe for them to use," he said. "We will be paving it, adding signage to let driver's know what the conditions are."
Gleason said roughly 40 stalls will be marked for truck use. He said a gate will likely control access, with seasonal closures expected.
“We agree that we want trucks to be safe. I doubt there is anyone that would dispute that. But, what goes along with that is idling, congestion and impacts to air quality,”Tom Fisher,Summit County Manager
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"We are not expecting there to be much of a change here because the trucks are already using this area," he said. "In fact, we may even see fewer vehicles because at times it will only be accessible when the law requires trucks to chain up.
"From our standpoint, this location is ideal because of its proximity to both I-80 and U.S. 40," he added.
Gleason said about 40,000 vehicles travel on Interstate 80 daily, with trucks accounting for nearly 38 percent of the traffic. He said U.S. 40 has slightly less traffic, with 32,000 average daily trips. About 27 percent of those are made by trucks.
"This is really an opportunity to improve safety in Summit County and Parleys Canyon," he said. "It's a unique area because of the elevation, and we do get a number of winter storms. We generally look at about 21 to 25 big winter storms in that area, and over the last couple of years we have actually had to close down westbound I-80 because there have been accidents with semis."
County officials say they don't disagree with the goals of the project. They just wish there would have been a broader discussion with officials before construction commenced to address several concerns.
County Manager Tom Fisher addressed the matter with the County Council on Wednesday. He said the county received several calls from residents in the Silver Creek neighborhood, as well as comments from leaders of Service Area No. 3, which governs the neighborhood.
Fisher said the county only knew the project was coming forward because it was identified on UDOT's list of projects. He added, "That's about the notice we had."
"Staff noticed it as we drove by that this was going on," he said.
Fisher said the county is primarily concerned about the impacts of potentially increasing truck traffic at the entrance of the Silver Creek neighborhood.
"We have residential that is really close to this area," he said. "We agree that we want trucks to be safe. I doubt there is anyone that would dispute that. But, what goes along with that is idling, congestion and impacts to air quality."
The county does not have jurisdiction over the issue because it is on UDOT's property. Fisher said the county would have liked more interaction during the planning phase.
"Perhaps some of those things could have been mitigated," Fisher said.
Gleason said representatives from UDOT did meet with the county within the last few months to discuss the project.
"We had an opportunity to sit down with them, and that's what we really try to do with these types of projects is meet with Summit County and get a good understanding of what their concerns are," he said. "We are interested in continuing to work with them to address their concerns. It's very much a work in progress."
The county recently sent a letter to UDOT outlining the questions the county had. Fisher said UDOT in a response acknowledged the truck traffic and the chain-up area's proximity to the neighborhood.
"It's a difficult situation," he said. "We would have just desired more forethought into mitigating the negative effects."
The project is scheduled to be complete in the fall.