Concerns Surface at U.S. 6 Interchange Open House
An open house last Thursday at Sally Mauro Elementary in Helper attracted more than 50 people who wanted to review the environmental impact study the Utah Department of Transportation and the state agency's consultants have conducted on the proposed Helper interchange.
"We are here for people to comment on this study," said U.S. Highway 6 project manager Michael Miles. "This gives them a chance to tell us about things that we may not have included in the study and possible problems they foresee that we might not have found."
The multi-purpose room at the elementary school was set up with various stations around the room that provided different kinds of information about the project.
The informative displays included a station with a slide show and a unique computer generated program at the back of the room that portrayed what the completed interchange would look like.
The computer graphic station fascinated many local residents in attendance at the open house because the operator could switch from a direct overhead view thousands of feet up in the air to what would be visible to people standing under the overpass.
The display also included some of the buildings and houses situated near where the U.S. 6 interchange project is proposed.
"That is really neat how they can do that," commented Helper Auto Parts owner Bob Farrell as he looked at the graphics on the screen. "But that doesn't diminish the fact that I think this project is going to destroy my business."
Farrell's auto parts and used car dealership is located on the southwest corner of the proposed project. He views the interchange structure as a barrier for travelers noticing his business and he believes the project will result in lower sales at the store in Helper.
"My car sales business relies heavily on people passing by and seeing what I have," pointed out Farrell. "Many of my customers are not from the local area, but people passing through who see something they like and stop because of it. This will have the effect of moving me back to Main Street ,where my store was many years ago. When I moved from there to my present location my business tripled."
Farrell's comments were not lost on UDOT officials, who are cognizant about how highway projects can impact businesses.
"It's not easy to do these projects and one of our biggest concerns is how we affect those that do business and live nearby," explained Miles.
"Projects affect businesses - sometimes it is positively, sometimes negatively. We hope this project will be a benefit to business and we believe that could very well happen with the artists in the community who are looking at decorating the structure," continued the UDOT officials.
Miles was referring to another station in the room where a number of artists conceptions of how the overpass could be decorated appeared. Some examples included a railroad motif, while others centered around more ancient designs with petroglyphs.
"It could actually draw people after the art community gets through with it," commented Miles.
Regardless of current opinion, the UDOT will move ahead on the project. The process will include the continuation of the public comment period on the environmental assessment for an additional 30-days, followed by a 30-day evaluation period.
"It's important to know that the comment period on this study doesn't end with this open house," advised Rachel McQuillen of Stanley Consultants, the company in charge of planning for UDOT. "They can view the document at a number of sites in the area and still send in comments to us."
A copy of the environmental study is available at the Helper City Hall, the Price District office of UDOT, the Price City Hall, the Helper City Library, the Carbon County recorders office and at the Price City Library.
Once the environmental study part of the project is completed, UDOT can then begin to evaluate right-of-way purchases and begin planning for the moving of utilities in the corridor. "That is going to be a big job," stated Miles. "There are a lot of utility lines and pipes there..
Further comment on the environmental study must be postmarked no later than August 31.