Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Highland East-West Connector History

To support an upcoming meeting (May 26, 2016, 7 PM at City Hall) with Representative Kennedy and Senator Dayton, where the East-West Connector road will be discussed, I am providing historical information to residents so that our conversation can be an informed one.

For over 35 years an East-West Corridor road has been a part of Highland’s Master Plan. The 1980 Master Street Plan below shows two alternate routes (highlighted in yellow).

1980-06-13 Street Master Plan

The timeline below highlights milestones in the process of the east-west corridor discussion and a closely related issue, Highland Glen Park which was formerly known as the Adventure and Learning Park. A big thanks to Mayor Mark Thompson for digging up the information from before 2005. Note, click on the date to view the document which backs up the description.

Date Description
Apr 1977 The Dev Center requested a free culinary water connection from the Highland Water Company for the Adventure and Learning Park, which was under construction.
Jun 1980 Highland Street Master Plan draft shows two east-west routes. See map at the top of the page.
Nov 1980 Glen Thurgood (Highland resident and civil engineer) recommends that the southern east-west route be used.
Mar 1985 The mayor discussed a request from the Dev Center to de-annex from Highland.
Feb 1986 The mayor indicated that the Dev Center was no longer able to fund the Adventure and Learning Park. The county indicated they would be willing to fund the park. The American Fork mayor does not want to annex the park.
Oct 1989 City of Highland East-West corridor recommendations.
Feb 1992 Deseret News, “Highland Aims To Create Master Plan For Roads Connecting Area’s Cities”, Feb 13, 1992.
“… One road proposal that would require intercommunity cooperation is the proposal to cover the Murdock Canal and turn that into a roadway, Schellenberg said.‘It would be safer, more efficient in retaining water, and we already have a right of way,’ he said.”
Nov 1995 The Dev Center indicated that the Adventure and Learning park lease to the County expires on Feb 1, 1996 and that the County has no interest in continuing to operate it. The council expressed a willingness to look into entering discussions with the State/Dev Center regarding the park.
Jul 1996 Discussed a draft of an agreement for Highland to lease the Adventure and Learning Park. The park is currently being overseen by the Dev Center but they do not have the funds to maintain it.
Nov 1997 4 proposed East-West routes
1997-11-11 East-West Alternatives
Sep 1998 Council approved purchase of park plus adjoining land for $1.4M. Some discussion of an East-West road occurred. It was noted that no land was purchased from the Dev Center outside the park for an East-West connector.
Nov 1998 The mayor indicated that an agreement had been finalized with the State/Dev Center to purchase the Adventure and Learning Park and adjoining land for $200,000 a year for the next 7 years. The first payment of $200,280 has already been made.
Oct 2000 Flyer for a public hearing on the East-West corridor. 12 options were shown.
2000-10-25 East-West Alternatives
Oct 2000 Daily Herald, “Road Leads to Controversy”, Oct 31, 2000 - article covering the public hearing.
’This is a tough decision, Adamson said. ‘Its a no-brainer that the connection should be made. It should have been done 20 to 30 years ago.”
Aug 2002 Bidding for east-west road through park authorized.
Feb 2004 Work session on Highland Glen park. Discussion included east-west road options. Because the park is 6F land (developed using Federal funds) a $200K environmental study would need to be performed in order to run a road through the park. Note, it is my understanding that East-West road through the park did not materialize due to 6F issues combined with a threaten lawsuit by residents.
May 2009 Settlement agreement with the residents of Pheasant Hollow requiring the city to involvement residents in any decision making process regarding the east-west connector road alignment and to be transparent. Highland may proceed with the purchase of the Jensen and Walkenhorst properties. Note, sometime between 2004 and 2009 the city and county settled on the southern route for the east west connecter and began purchasing property along that route.
Jan 2010 Public hearing on land swap with AF to help align boundaries to support the Murdock Connector.
Aug 2010 Discussion regarding money already spent for a design of the Murdock Connector and referenced a 2008 decision to purchase two homes in Pheasant Hollow, which from my point of view identifies the decision to build the East/West Connector using the southern route no later than 2008.
Highland City has had preliminary design work completed by Civil Science for the Murdock Connector project and has expended $186,604.98 for that work. The City has provided documentation acceptable to Utah County to obtain reimbursement for the design work. Utah County agrees to reimburse Highland City within 30 days of execution of the agreement.
The Murdock Connector has been determined by the Mountainland Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Regional Planning Committee to receive a portion of the revenues of the Part 19 Tax not to exceed $4,000,000 for direct costs of the Highway. The City and County will have a representative meet together at least monthly to discuss progress, design, construction and costs of the project.
The County will not obligate the City to any expense that exceeds the $4,000,000 without prior approval of the City. The City shall own and be responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of Highway.This road came about from a November 2008 decision from an Executive Session to purchase the Walkenhorst and Jensen homes in Pheasant Hollow. MAG was willing to come up with the funds for the project.“
Sep 2010 Murdock Connector discussed. Mayor indicates approval for right-of-way through state land has not been given.
Nov 2010 Murdock Connector work session. Larry Ellertson, Utah County Commissioner was present. Cost of road (road, engineering, and construction management) was estimated to be $3.3M. The county would fund up to $4M. The Mayor felt there was a high probability that a right-of-way would be granted by the state.
Mar 2011 3.5 hour discussion on whether or not to allow the mayor to enter into an interlocal cooperation agreement with the county for the Murdock Connector. Approved 4 to 0 with one council member abstaining. Note, the funding for the project was  originally scheduled to expire Oct of 2015 but has been extended to 2016. Click here to see current MAG project map. You will need to click on the East-West Connector in Highland to see the project dates and verify that it is funded for 2016.
Mar 2011 Daily Herald, “Highland signs agreement for new east/west road”, Mar 6, 2011.
Apr 2011 General Plan amended to include the Murdock Connector. Passed unanimously.
Jan 2014 In the minutes of the Dev Center governing board it states that they recommended that an east-west connector road terminate at the NE corner of the property (just south of the high school and near the 4 way intersection. Also prior to bringing a proposal to the Dev Center it must be shown that a right of way exists for the road on non-state owned land.
Feb 2014 USDC Properties Master Plan: The executive summary states the following:
The composition of the plan includes the following attributes:
• Two alternative alignments for the planned Murdock Connector road.
• …

The East-West connect is mentioned numerous (18) times in the plan with the a route starting at either the SW corner of the property or the NW section and ending in the NE corner. The plan also discusses curb cuts on N. County Blvd and specifically mentions Harvey Blvd.
Curb Cuts: Four curb-cuts are proposed along the North County Boulevard. One of those connection points is proposed at Harvey Boulevard, where Highland City has proposed linking the Murdock Connector.”
Later in the document (pg. 55) the plan specifically notes that Harvey Blvd is being analyzed as a signalized intersection and identifies this road (through the project) as a collector (pg. 56 see picture below).

2014-02 USDC Road Hierarchy
Mar 2014 Concurrent resolution of the State House and Senate signed by the Governor on March 12th which supports the master plan “… NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, expresses support for the Utah State Development Center's master plan.” This was passed unanimously in the Senate and with only one Nay vote in the House.
Dec 2015 East-West Connector preliminary plans:
2015-12-08 Preliminary Plans
Dec 2015 UDOT email indicating support for the plan. “… We strongly support Highland City and Utah County in making this important connection. Creation of such as grid system helps our regional and local systems function well into the future.”
Dec 2015 Minutes of Dev Center board meeting where the East-West connector was discussed it is an interesting read. The final approved motion reads as follows:
After additional discussion Paul Smith, Division Director DSPD requested that the motion be restated with conditions of approval for the Murdock Connector Road to be met as follows:
1. Future access agreements be written into the proposal.
2. Determine the purchase cost of property at fair market value.
3. Define, develop and select design of road for lower traffic speed and intersections.
4. Construction cost will be paid 100% by Utah County. USDC will incur no expense.
5. Highland City will maintain the developed road.
6. Trail designs will remain consistent with the vision of the USDC Properties Master Plan
Bill Exeter seconded, the motion which passed in favor of approval to proceed with design/building of the Murdock Connector Road with Harvey Boulevard Alignment. Meetings will be set; to work on the elements of detail required to proceed between interested parties to include the Governing Body, City Mayors and Utah County
Feb 2016 Highland City received a letter signed by President of the Utah Senate, the Speaker of the Utah House, Rep. Mike Kennedy, Senator Margaret Dayton, and the General Counsel for the Utah Legislature stating the concurrent resolution approving the master plan does not constitute legislative approval for the sale, exchange, or long-term lease of land and that such approval “is usually accomplished by passing a joint resolution.” 
Mar 2016 HJR 10 Joint resolution authorizing the lease of a portion of the Utah State Development passed unanimously in both houses (see Utah State Developmental Center Properties Master Plan page 43).
UCSD Retail
May 2016 State code (62A-5-202.5) enacted by SB0172 dealing with the composition and duties and powers of the Development Center board.
The 9 member board “shall: (a) act for the benefit of the developmental center and the division; … (e) approve the sale, lease, or other disposition of real property or water rights associated with the developmental center, as described in Subsection 62A-5-206.6(5).
May 2016 State code (62A-5-206.6) enacted by SB0172 dealing with the process of selling land. “The board shall:
(i) approve the sale, long-term lease, or other disposition of real property or water rights associated with the developmental center;
(ii) secure the approval of the Legislature before offering the real property or water rights for sale, long-term lease, or other disposition; and Utah Code Page 2
(iii) if the Legislature's approval is secured, as described in Subsection (5)(b)(ii), direct the Division of Facilities Construction and Management to convey, lease, or dispose of the real property or water rights associated with the developmental center according to the board's determination.”
2016-05 Senator Dayton penned a follow-up article to a meeting with Highland residents held on May 26 (click here see notes from this meeting). In the article she said among other things that
  • Utah has no shortage of roads, but there is only one State Developmental Center
  • There are those who would like to fragment the center’s land with roads, and use it in ways other than its intended purposes.  I hope that this will not be the final outcome of current discussions.”
I cannot resist pointing out that the very plan Senator Dayton introduced to the legislature in 2014 and was passed by both houses with only one no vote and was unanimously reaffirmed by the legislature in 2016 defines a plan that “fragments” the center’s land with roads. Moreover the proposed east-west connector is among the roads included in this plan.
Jul 2016 In July, The Daily Herald published two articles on the connector and an editorial
6-Jul: Herald editorial: Time is right for east-west connector
6 Jul: Crossing the divide: Highland seeks east-west connector
14-Jul: USDC Board moves forward on Murdock Connector traffic study, request for proposals
Dec 2016 6-Dec: Highland passes resolution supporting Murdock Connector – similar resolution passed by American Fork.
23-Dec: Daily Herald North Utah County residents petition state for Murdock Connector
Link to the petition “Support building the Murdock Connector” initiated by Robert Shelton (American Fork City Councilman)
Jan 2017 UDOT is scheduled to conduct a road study on the impact of the East-West connector.  The project was funded by the Mountainland Association of Governments and should be completed sometime in February. Until this is completed legislative approval cannot start.
Feb 2017 One page summary report of the East-West connector study was released on Feb 23rd (Click here to see the summary). The following are highlights from the summary:
  • Demand exists for a new east-west connector.
  • The connector will primarily serve local trips.
  • The connector will improve traffic operations
    throughout the study area, particularly on SR-92.
  • The study shows that an east-west connector would benefit the study area by providing better local access and
    connectivity between Alpine Highway and North County Boulevard. The connector would predominantly be used
    for short local trips, leaving the longer regional trips on SR-92 and North County Boulevard.
Mar 2017 The East-West Connector was released on March 16th, after legislative session  was over.  Click here to read the full report or click here to read my analysis of the report. The following are the concluding paragraphs from the report:

”The options were evaluated based on roadway and network characteristics, traffic volumes, intersection operations, and network performance. The results showed volume demand ranging from an estimated 4,700 to 6,200 trips per day in year 2016 and increasing to an estimated 7,200 to 8,500 trips per day in year 2040, based on the location of the connector. The volumes, trip lengths, and proposed spacing correspond to the Major Connector functional class that is proposed for the road and are consistent with similar streets in the area.

The analysis shows that generally the intersection delays decreased and operations improved with the addition of the proposed connector independent of location. The intersections along SR-92 have the largest decrease in delays where decreases ranged from 1 to 28 seconds depending on intersection and location of the connector. The results show a reduction in delays for drivers and the amount and distances drivers were traveling within the study area. Overall daily delays are reduced by 10 to 80 hours, with VHT (Vehicle Hours of Travel) and VMT (Vehicle Miles of Travel)  reduced by 10 to 120 hours and 1,000 to 5,000 miles, respectively.

The evaluation of the effects of adding an east-west connector between SR -92 and 700 North shows that it will have a positive impact on the local network, regardless of location. The proposed connector decreases intersection delay and reduces the amount of travel time and distance for drivers in the area.


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