I had the privilege of riding shotgun in one of our snowplow trucks earlier this week. As always, our public works department was busy cleaning the roads in the early morning hours after a storm. Driving the truck was Jacob Anderson, who has not missed a single storm in 15 years. It was interesting to see snowplow operations from this perspective and it gave me a new appreciation for the work they do. Like many of you, I’m tired of shoveling my driveway this winter, and it’s frustrating when the snowplow comes by and leaves a wall of snow. That said, I learned a few things during this excursion that really changed my perspective.
The folks operating these snowplows aren’t leaving that wall of snow on purpose. In fact, it's quite the opposite. If there was enough time and an abundance of resources, they would go and clean every driveway in town. Their hearts are that good! They do this job because they take pride in providing such an important service to the community. Jacob actually showed me how he tries to drive his truck in a way that will minimize that wall of snow as much as possible.
It saddens me to know that there have been altercations between snowplow truck drivers and homeowners over this issue. One of our drivers rolled down his window, was hit in the head with an ice ball, and actually bled from the experience. Remember, regardless of how frustrating it is, it only takes 10 minutes or less to clean the snow left by the plow. That’s not much in the big scheme of things! These drivers have been working tirelessly in the unceasing snow this winter. I’m amazed at the resilience this job requires and I’m so grateful for those who choose to do it. We depend on these drivers to create safe travel conditions during the dreary winter months and they deserve our appreciation.
With that, I want to thank the public works department for the work they put in every day to provide us with running water, waste disposal services, clean roads, and much more. This ride-along was time well spent and I appreciate the opportunity.
Bypass Road Studies
There has been a lot of talk recently concerning the bypass road on the west side of Heber.
Last week, Mayor Heidi Franco and Councilmember Ryan Stack met with UDOT and Spencer Park of the Wasatch County Council to discuss expectations. Although I wasn’t at the meeting, I’ve heard that UDOT was asking if we wanted them to stop their research and studies and leave us alone. In theory, the result would be discontinuing progress on the bypass option.
Spencer Park and Heidi Franco both expressed that they would like UDOT to continue the studies. However, we’d like them to focus on the original path set more than 20 years ago around the west side of Heber, not considering the North Fields as an option, and dropping the idea to bypass the area and reconnect at River Road. Ryan Stack mentioned that he felt a majority of the Heber City Council would like UDOT to complete their studies to ensure the solution we end up with is what we need. The end result must support the traffic that's anticipated over the next 30 years.
Here is my view on the subject: I really want to build a bypass road that is worthy of building. Traffic problems on the horizon are more about Highway 189 to Highway 40 than the tanker trucks on Main Street. With development in the Jordan Basin, the new Mayflower Resort and base village, and units approved north of Heber City, we have a lot of growth. For the first time, we may have an opportunity to get ahead of it when it comes to traffic infrastructure.
I love the North Fields and I believe they hold the character of Heber Valley. They should be preserved for generations to come so our children can enjoy the benefit of an agricultural history and open space. Reflecting back, the North Fields helped me make the decision to move to Heber Valley. I was driving along Highway 40, coming down from the Jordanelle reservoir on a September afternoon. It was just after a rain storm and the North Fields were green and beautiful with Mount Timpanogos watching over the valley in the background. That’s when I really knew this was where I wanted to live.
Nearly 20 years later, our population has doubled, and according to projections, it will double again over the next 20 years. Traffic has increased exponentially and our Main Street is failing. I want UDOT to have an opportunity to complete their studies and find the best route for a long-term traffic solution in Heber Valley.
In my personal opinion, if there is any expansion of Highway 40 north of town, it should stay as close to the current road as possible or be combined with some sort of frontage road in the same alignment. I also want to protect the North Fields as an open space corridor. If UDOT returns and states that they truly believe the best route is through the North Fields, my hope is that we can combine that plan with conservation easements that will protect the remainder of the properties from any future development. What’s more, it should be a road built to allow the agricultural history of that area to continue to flourish. I don't want to simply say ‘no’ to the ideas that are being brought forward. I feel strongly that we must consider all sides and look outside of our own personal experiences to find the best solution — and I truly believe we can.
This is one of those difficult topics of discussion that often leads to a strong emotional response. In the end, I know we as a City Council can work closely with the County Council to create a roadway that is a blessing to our community.
D. Scott Phillips
Heber City Council