The History of Canyon Road

The city recently sent out a survey to residents and received over 400 responses. We appreciate the time that you took to provide feedback as it helps us as we consider plans for the future. My newsletter messages over the next few months will be focused on some of the common questions and concerns that I saw in the responses.

One of the biggest concerns listed in the survey was the Canyon Road construction project. There were several comments regarding the quality of the road, the lack of safety features such as sidewalks, the change to the entrance to American Fork Canyon, and the new striping. While I share many of these concerns, the issue for us is that Canyon Road is a county-owned road, it is not a city road. For several years before the project started, city officials met with county officials to identify additional funding for needed enhancements and requested improvements to make the road safer. However, county officials were unwilling to upgrade the road and consistently stated that the city would need to take ownership of the road if we wanted it maintained to a higher standard. After hiring an engineering firm to provide us with an analysis of what it would take to maintain the road with some basic improvements, which did not include sidewalks, we determined we could not afford to take ownership of the road without a significant increase in taxes from residents. We did not feel it should be the responsibility of Cedar Hills residents to bear this cost as the road was designed to be a collector road, not a city road. Had it been designated a city road from the beginning, it would have been designed and built to city standards.

The county contracted with Kilgore to complete the Canyon Road project last year and they are aware that there are issues that still need to be addressed, such as portions of the road that weren’t completed, new potholes, uneven surfaces, and incorrect striping. They had to end most of their construction efforts due to weather, but they plan on addressing these outstanding items in the spring. As a city, we will continue to advocate for improvements that provide safety for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians that use Canyon Road.

For those interested, here is a history that I wrote last year on Canyon Road.

History of Canyon Road

For over a decade, Utah County officials, members of Mountainland Association of Governments[1] (MAG), and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) discussed a change of ownership of Canyon Road (SR-146). This came about as county officials wished to expand what is now North County Boulevard as a regional road. In order to receive the federal funding necessary to build the type of road desired, the ownership of that road needed to transfer from the then owners (Lindon, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, and Highland) to the State of Utah. UDOT would only agree to take on this road by giving up ownership of another road in the area. While there was some talk of Alpine Highway being transferred to Highland with UDOT taking over North County Blvd[2], eventually the decision was made to transfer ownership of Canyon Road from UDOT to the County.

As early as 2007 when this transfer was being considered, Cedar Hills was upfront that Canyon Road needed to be brought up to standard, including adding curb and gutter[3]. Though UDOT was responsible for Canyon Road, the maintenance had been neglected for some time and the road had been in a failing rating for several years. Once North County Blvd was finished, the County Commissioners indicated that Canyon Road was the next project on this list[4]. However, upgrades and maintenance items continued to be ignored as the County and UDOT were looking to instead transfer ownership of Canyon Road to the cities of Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove instead of the County. Because of the ongoing costs associated with maintaining a road of this size, both cities expressed an unwillingness to take ownership[5] and requested that the County do so, as per the original agreement.

In 2014, an agreement of jurisdictional transfer of Canyon Road was drafted where the County agreed to take ownership[6]. The agreement included:

  • A transfer of the following roads from local jurisdiction to UDOT: 700 North in Lindon, North County Blvd in PG, AF, and Highland.
  • UDOT transfers $3.3m to the County for Canyon Road improvements
  • Canyon Road to remain functionally classified as a Minor Arterial and Major Collector
  • Utah County assumed all maintenance responsibilities

In addition to the $3.3 million, the County committed an additional $1.5 million to this project, which came from unused federal funds originally allocated to North County Blvd. Because all parties understood that $4.8 million would only cover a basic overlay of Canyon Road and not address many of the road issues, the cities of Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills, along with Utah County, submitted a proposal to MAG in the spring of 2014 requesting additional funding for improvements[7]. This was approved at $4.5 million, bringing the total amount available for road improvements to $9.3 million.

During this process, the County again approached Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove about taking ownership of Canyon Road at some point in the future and taking on maintenance responsibilities immediately. Cedar Hills continued to turn down any proposal consisting of a change in ownership[8]. There was some indication that a refusal to take ownership would mean the approved upgrades would not be completed. To obtain clarification from all sides, Cedar Hills officials requested a meeting with UDOT, Utah County, and the City Council. The following points were made:

  • UDOT stated they suggested Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove take ownership of Canyon Road, but the cities weren’t interested. They will not make improvements if they continue to own the road and are requesting the County take ownership.
  • Andrew Jackson with MAG stated that that the tax code allows for counties to impose a sales tax for road construction. A percentage of those funds have to go toward state roads or those likely to become state roads. In order to obtain the money needed for North County Boulevard, it was proposed that a swap is made for SR-146 (Canyon Road).
  • Commissioner Ellertson with Utah County stated that at the time this discussion began it was agreed that if the cities did not want to take possession of the road, the county would take it as a county road, with no obligation to increase the level of service by installing curb, gutter, drainage, etc. The county was not interested in accepting the MAG money because it was not interested in maintaining the road at a higher standard. In his opinion, Canyon Road is a safe road and any safety issues are the fault of vehicle operators. Commissioner Ellertson stated the only reason that the county agreed to this jurisdictional transfer is that they were interested in getting state money for North County Boulevard and they would reject any MAG money approved for improvements if the cities didn’t take ownership[9].

Cedar Hills officials explained that Canyon Road serves as a major access point to American Fork Canyon and is a regional collector road, not a city road. They also advised the County that it would be irresponsible to reject MAG funds and not make necessary safety improvements to the road as significant safety issues had been identified.

During the September 22, 2015 City Council meeting, the Council was informed that the County may be willing to do some additional improvements to the road if the city was willing to handle some maintenance items, such as snow removal, storm drain maintenance, and street sweeping. While Cedar Hills does not have the equipment or manpower to handle snow removal, a contract with a neighboring city could be drafted to provide this service. After researching the option, Cedar Hills staff indicated it would cost approximately $13,000 each year to handle maintenance, so Cedar Hills officials asked that the County provide a summary of what improvements would be made with this agreement[10].

A year later the County submitted a proposal to Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove, which included the use of the MAG money to provide some safety enhancements in addition to the rebuild of Canyon Road. These safety enhancements would not be to a city standard but would include some curb and gutter, drainage improvements, and a rebuild of the road. As per the proposal, the upgrades would only occur if the cities of Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills were willing to take on several maintenance services immediately and to take ownership of the road in 30 years. If the city rejected the proposal, the County would only do an overlay on Canyon Road[11]. The Cedar Hills City Council rejected this proposal. There were several concerns identified, including:

  • If improvements exceeded the $9.3 million available, the cities would be obligated to pay the difference.
  • Both cities would be immediately responsible for snow removal and salting; pothole repair; road signage maintenance; debris removal; law enforcement; annual costs for striping crosswalks, school crossings, school area messaging, and all additional striping; annual costs of pavement maintenance, such as surface treatment, as deemed necessary by the County in areas of asphalt widening for right-of-way; maintenance of all curb, gutter, and storm drainage facilities; and handling all storm water run-off. Cedar Hills staff anticipated costs for all this to be approximately $15,000-$20,000 per year, which was not budgeted for.
  • Cedar Hills is almost completely built out, which means there will not be a significant increase in revenue needed to maintain this road when the transfer of ownership occurred. Based on figures provided by an engineering firm hired by Cedar Hills, the cost of ownership of this portion of Canyon Road over a 30 year period would be approximately $5 million. This would necessitate a significant property tax increase and/or road fee as incoming revenue would be insufficient. This figure did not include adding sidewalks or bike lanes.
  • Canyon Road is a regional connector road, not a city road. Traffic counts provided in the MAG application show that the current average daily traffic is over 17,000, with an expected increase in daily traffic as population growth occurs in the area[12].
  • For this proposal, the boundary line between Pleasant Grove and Cedar Hills is the Murdock Canal; however, there are several homes north of the canal that are in Pleasant Grove. There was a feeling that Pleasant Grove should accept some responsibility for the road north of the canal as more than 50% of the homes between the Murdock Canal and Cedar Hills Drive are Pleasant Grove residents.
  • Pleasant Grove gave up jurisdiction and ownership responsibilities of their portion of North Canyon Blvd, so this agreement was fair for them as they gave up some road and took on some road. This was not the case for Cedar Hills as the city never owned any road that was included in a transfer agreement. Where Pleasant Grove was asked to swap roads, Cedar Hills was being asked to take on an additional road.

On November 22, 2016, a joint meeting was held with the Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove City Councils and the Utah County Commissioners. Cedar Hills again reiterated the concerns identified above and requested the County accept the MAG funds and do the improvements included in the MAG application[13]. The County stayed firm with their decision to refuse any improvements without a transfer of ownership. Eventually, Pleasant Grove accepted the proposal from the County. Because Cedar Hills rejected it, the County made the decision to make improvements for the road south of Murdock Canal while only doing an overlay for the road north of the canal.

After this joint meeting, Cedar Hills officials drafted a new proposal and met individually with each County Commissioner to discuss. During earlier discussions, one item of concern that continued to come up by the County was that County roads do not normally include improvements such as drainage and curb and gutter, so if the County installed these improvements on Canyon Road, it would increase their maintenance costs and set a precedent for other County roads. In order to alleviate these concerns, Cedar Hills proposed that the County use the MAG money to make the improvements originally planned for, and Cedar Hills would handle all the maintenance of the improvements made north of the canal. This benefitted both entities as the road received some needed safety improvements and would prolong the life of the road, but would not increase expenditures for the County. During these meetings, two of the three commissioners indicated support for this proposal. Cedar Hills invited the Commissioners to attend a meeting to discuss the proposal and hear from residents, though only Commissioner Lee attended. A few residents shared concerns and the City Council discussed the benefits of the proposal. Commissioner Lee asked the city to submit a proposal in writing to the Commissioners for further discussion[14].

On May 16, 2017, the Cedar Hills City Manager met with the County Commissioners at a County Commission meeting and presented the proposal. Even though two of the Commissioners had indicated support in private meetings, they presented different views in this meeting and rejected the proposal[15]. The County moved forward with modified plans where Pleasant Grove received improvements south of Murdock Canal, and the road north of the canal received an overlay and some storm drainage.

Cedar Hills residents and officials remain concerned about the safety issues that exist on Canyon Road. Based on traffic volumes and population, there is a need for better drainage, for shoulders, and for curb, gutter, and sidewalks. It is our opinion that improvements and safety features for roads should be based on items such as location and traffic counts, not on which government entity owns the road.

[1] Mountainland Association of Governments is the designated planning district for Summit, Utah and Wasatch Counties. MAG provides local government coordination of mutually beneficial programs and provides regional collaboration and cost-effective public services for the area communities.

[2] Daily Herald article “Residents decry UDOT plan to divest Alpine Highway”. April 10, 2010. http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/highland/residents-decry-udot-plan-to-divest-alpine-highway/article_b168073d-dccd-5f86-87ab-acbc6f59c3e6.html

[3] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 10/2/2007. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2007-10-02.htm

[4] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 4/2/2013. “Commissioner Gary Anderson states that Canyon Road is the next road on the agenda and that the County is working with UDOT to determine how it will be funded.” http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2013-04-02_0.pdf

[5] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 11/19/2013. “The Mayor added that neither us or Pleasant Grove are interested in doing this at this point, and neither of us have budgeted to maintain SR 146.” http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2013-11-19_0.pdf

[6] Resolution deleting State Highway SR-146 and transferring to Utah County. http://utahdot.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=90&meta_id=5927

[7] Mountainland MPO Project Prioritization Concept Report. https://jenneyrees.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/sr_146-reconstruction-and-widening-concept-report_final-2.pdf

[8] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 09/02/2014. ”There is no proposal; other than Mayor Gygi has said many times that Cedar Hills should not own the road.” http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2014-09-02.pdf

[9] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 10/07/2014. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2014-10-07.pdf

[10] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 9/22/2015. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2015-09-22.pdf

[11] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 10/18/2016. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-minutes-2016-10-18.pdf

[12] Mountainland MPO Project Prioritization Concept Report. https://jenneyrees.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/sr_146-reconstruction-and-widening-concept-report_final-2.pdf

[13] Pleasant Grove City Council meeting minutes 11/22/2016. On https://plgrove.org/component/easyfolderlistingpro/?view=download&format=raw&data=eNpNkE2OgzAMha-CvK_AVKKtWXbd1RygyoChlgJB-Zm2Gs3dXCchVO0q8bO_p2crQqRfRw3BYHTPFlpHeCDoTRcmnr0rXCeZg2e3NpAgOLZ5NEsE1as1Bnb-bRNdrtdVS9Uxo7OaOJUVQXqarEoPrVCVIct6Uf62ukaqPIt_FmcT5k50WVfYbHaDaH7Z7SOHuKvrHTbF18KdKF18gsXlvcaegB9–y39sIXlx1wiNk3kJBgjKu9Vd0t3gPZ7VU-RsPwjfM9LxgVGY0YdU_z9A4yTaM0,

[14] Cedar Hills City Council meeting minutes 04/18/2017. http://www.cedarhills.org/sites/default/files/minutes/city-council-ws-minutes-2017-04-18.pdf

[15] Utah County Commission meeting 05/16/2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6icObXROZg starting point 1:08:45.

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