A discussion regarding the future of Canyon Road has been ongoing for several years. Here is a brief recap:
- The County wanted to make improvements to North County Blvd, which was owned by Pleasant Grove, American Fork, and Highland, and wanted federal dollars to make the improvements. In order to get federal dollars, the ownership of the road had to be transferred to the State. Through an agreement made between UDOT and Utah County, a trade was made after North County Blvd was completed. UDOT, which owned Canyon Road, agreed to take ownership of North County Blvd and the County agreed to take ownership of Canyon Road. Canyon Road maintained its classification as a “Minor Arterial and Major Collector” road.
- UDOT gave to the County the funds they had set aside to do an overlay on Canyon Road, which was $3.3 million.
- Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove approached Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) and requested additional funding to make significant improvements to Canyon Road, including fixing drainage issues and installing curb and gutter. This was approved for $4.5 million. The County agreed to allocate an additional $1.5 million to the project. I’m not clear as to where those funds came from as I’ve heard they are federal funds the County received as part of the transfer agreement of North County Blvd. With all the funding available, there was a total of $9.3 million to improve Canyon Road.
- The County approached both cities and stated they are willing to use all of those funds to make improvements but only if the cities agree to take ownership of the road in 30 years and immediately take responsibility for pothole repair and maintenance, snow removal, law enforcement, storm drainage, signage, debris removal, and some road striping. Our city manager estimated the cost for us would be $15,000-$20,000 per year from year one. The ongoing maintenance after the transfer of ownership would be much higher as we will then be responsible for all major road repairs, resulting in millions of dollars to be expended.
- The County originally indicated that if we refused to take ownership, they would reject the MAG funds ($4.5 million) and just do an overlay.
- In a recent Council meeting we discussed our concerns with the agreement, including but not limited to our $15-$20k annual responsibility from day one, the ability for the County to give 6 months’ notice to terminate the agreement before the 30 year transfer of ownership (though they do have to give us money to maintain the road at their levels for the entire 30 year contract), that the agreement didn’t fix all the drainage issues nor install curb and gutter on the entire road through our portion, concerns with our ability to handle snow plowing immediately, and the eventual ownership and costs. While the improvements being proposed are significant, they do not raise the quality of Canyon Road to city standards.
At our request, we had a joint meeting with the Pleasant Grove City Council on November 22, 2016. This was an opportunity to hear where Pleasant Grove was with the agreement and to express our concerns. Also in attendance were Utah County Commissioners Bill Lee and Larry Ellertson, Commissioner-elect Nathan Ivie, Utah County Public Works Director Richard Nielson, Andrew Jackson with MAG, and many city staff members from both cities. At that meeting members of the Cedar Hills Council expressed concerns with the safety of Canyon Road and the agreement.
The major points that I brought up were 1) Cedar Hills isn’t in a position to expend $15-$20k per year to maintain a County Road, 2) our city is almost completely built out so our ability to own a road of that size and scope, even in 30 years, is limited as the cost will be in the millions of dollars, 3) while the County feels that County standards are less than those of a city with regards to roads, the improvements being suggested do not raise the quality of the road to city standards, 4) the improvements being recommended do not address all of the safety issues, 5) if the project exceeds the $9.3 million budget, the cities have the pay the balance, and 6) the County made this agreement with UDOT knowing it was not a rural road and had significant safety issues that should have been addressed some time ago.
My initial hope was that PG and Cedar Hills could work together and reject the agreement, ask the County to use the $9.3 available to them to fix the road and address the safety issues of the road they own, then later meet together with the County to discuss the future of the road. It was apparent at the end of the meeting that the majority of the PG City Council is willing to sign an agreement with the County to repair their portion and take on ownership in the future. It’s possible they have the ability to do so as they no longer have to maintain their previously owned portion of North County Blvd, but I do not know the details of their budget. I suggested to the County that we look at a separate agreement for Cedar Hills thatmakes sense for us. Our city is smaller than PG (CH population = 10,265, PG population = 38,052), our budgeted revenues are less (for fiscal year 2017 CH = $4,084,654, PG = $13,928,006), PG turned over ownership for their portion of North County Blvd where we are keeping all of the streets we’ve been responsible for, and PG has more staff and more resources to handle a road the size of Canyon Road. While the agreement as written may make sense for PG, it doesn’t make sense for a city of our size. At the same time, the road needs to be fixed and the County, as the owner of the road, should address issues for the safety of everyone who drives on Canyon Road.
After the meeting was over I spoke with one of the County Commissioners and am cautiously optimistic that something canbe done that addresses the issues without hurting our city. I will continue to post updates as more conversations take place.