Monday, October 20, 2008

Bond 1: Roads

The purpose of Bond 1 is to widen or complete roads in order to relieve congestion and improve pedestrian safety. In particular, it addresses three spots which have long been shown in the transportation element of the general plan, but which have languished for want of funds.

Here follow my explanation and comment.

50 South

50 South from 700 East to 1100 East is presently a two-lane road with gravel shoulders.

I first became acquainted with the issues here when I met a Barratt PTA president who drove his children to school -- a distance of maybe two blocks -- because they could not safely walk along 50 South.

While I cannot say that improvements to 50 South will relieve the hornet's nest of school traffic at Barratt, I can say that pedestrians will have safe passage here if the road is completed. Finished, the road will have the same cross section it shows when it crosses the Pleasant Grove boundary and becomes 1100 North. There will be three lanes including a center turn lane, sidewalks, curb and gutter.

As to cost, this project has been estimated at $4 million in 2009 dollars. This estimate includes everything from replacing mailboxes and utilities to laying asphalt.

Of that $4 million, $1.06 million is already available through federal funds distributed by the Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG). At the time this award was made, the City's portion of the cost (the match) was to be 6.33 percent, or about $72,000.

I do not know the year of the award, and cannot comment on what financial predicaments led American Fork to procrastinate until inflation had driven costs up by an additional $3 million. I can say that American Fork has gone back to MAG to ask for additional funding, and the answer, unofficially given, was that MAG would consider the City's request if the City would raise an additional $1 million.

Hence, $1 million of Bond 1 will go toward the widening of 50 South in hopes that MAG will then award the additional $2 million necessary for completion.

If voters approve the million but MAG does not come through with the $2 million, I cannot say what will happen. As a City Council, we have not discussed this possibility. Presumably, the City would either have to abandon the project or else opt for partial completion, as it cannot legally put the bond funds to any use other than what appears in the language of the ballot.

Additional note: The intersection at 50 South and 1100 East is presently a four-way stop and this bond will not change that. Utah County expects to take over jurisdiction of 1100 East and has acknowledged the need for a signal there. As an American Fork Council member, I'm more than happy to let the County foot the bill for the signal.

900 West

900 West is familiar to most as the access road east of Costco. It runs from State Street to the congested intersection at 700 North, and from there continues on to Highland. At present, the road has several turn lanes at the State Street intersection, but quickly narrows to two lanes.

The presence of Costco makes 900 West a road of regional significance, which is why MAG has studied it. According to MAG's technical review, 900 West should ideally show five lanes up to 700 North and three lanes between 700 North and 1120 North. The 700 North intersection warrants a signal light.

When the Carson property develops, the City will be able to require the developer to provide the necessary widths along his property. This bond treats the portion of 900 West that begins where the Carson property ends, one lot shy of 700 North.

The intent of the bond is to acquire the piece of property at the northeast corner of 900 West and 700 North -- welcome news for those offended by the parcel's "for sale possible commercial" sign -- then to construct turn lanes. With this right-of-way, the City will be able to add a west-bound right-turn lane to 700 North and a north-bound right-turn lane to 900 East.

While this will certainly help the intersection, it is only a band-aid when seen in light of MAG's recommendations. The obvious question is, why not bond for the entire package -- signal light and three lanes through to 1120 North?

The short answer is that the Council saw 1.87 million reasons not to go all the way, and voted instead for this cheaper, $400,000 option. In a year with a tax increase and several million dollars in bond propositions, this was one place where the Council felt it could cut corners, so to speak.

If approved, Bond 1 will not preclude future installation of signal and turn lanes, but will bring the City $400,000 closer to this goal.

1120 North

1120 North is best known as the location of American Fork Junior High. The road begins at 200 East, crosses through a signal at 100 East, and comes to a four-way stop at 150 West. From there, it continues past a church and several lovely homes, then stops just west of Hunter Park. Completed, it will continue to 900 West and stop there.

Since the junior high was built in the 1970s, 1120 North has been shown as a major collector on the transportation element of the general plan. Necessary to accommodate a student body of 1500, a major collector shows a width of 82 feet. These 82 feet include a center turn lane and curb, gutter, and sidewalks.

The intent of the bond is to finish the road by extending it across the hollow to 900 West. This would be a distance of some two and a half blocks. The majority of the expense lies in the bridge, which, because it traverses a wetland, must be built in accordance with permits given by the Army Corps of Engineers. The silver lining to this expense is that the bridge would open up access to future trails through Hunter Park.

Regular readers will remember my post from last October, in which I advocated the completion of 1120 North. I support the design standards, which are pedestrian friendly, and I support the general plan, which was in place when homeowners purchased their properties.

I have been an outspoken advocate for pedestrian safety, and this is the biggest reason why I support the completion of 1120 North. 1120 North is needed to shoulder its burden as a collector and siphon traffic off of 700 North, where conditions for pedestrians are nightmarish. Completing 1120 North means more sidewalks, more trails, and better safety throughout the northwest neighborhoods.

However, I am not convinced that Bond 1 is the best way to do it. I fear it would be disastrous to complete 1120 North without first completing 900 West up to 1120 North. Between 700 North and 1120 North, 900 West is a narrow, two-lane road without shoulders. If we assume that the 4,000 daily vehicle trips which now take place in front of the junior high would now continue through to 900 West, then we ought first to construct 900 West to accommodate those trips.

If approved, however, the bond will not preclude future improvements along 900 West, but will bring the City that much closer to compliance with its general plan.


Bond 1, if passed, would raise $4.32 million for the projects described in the ballot. The bond would be repaid through a corresponding increase in property taxes. The increase to a $240,000 home would be approximately $37 per year. The increase to a $240,000 business would be approximately $68 per year.

Disclaimer: Articles posted at my blog are personal opinion. In posting this series on the bonds, I do not claim to speak for the City or the City Council. This blog does not represent any official position of American Fork City, and no City resources have ever been used to finance this blog.


Blogger Heidi Rodeback said...

City Planner Rod Despain made a valid point at the October 22 Town Meeting which deserves mention. He noted that "this bond is a referendum on financing. It is not a measure of whether these roads should come off the general plan."

11:35 AM  

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