Monday, August 23, 2010

Pioneer Crossing

As the sun broke over the American Fork canyon this morning, I joined about a hundred other government officials, engineers, and newspaper reporters to witness the opening of the Pioneer Crossing, a historic occasion and a red letter day.

Aptly named for Utah's pioneer forebears, the new American Fork-Saratoga Springs connector enables today's commuters to travel in just six minutes the six miles from Redwood Road in Saratoga Springs to I-15 in American Fork. This same distance, a UDOT official reminded us this morning, would have been a half-day trip for the pioneers, and also a half-day trip for the luckless commuters of Lehi's Main Street.

With a total project cost of $260 million, the road was hailed as a significant transportation investment. Officials who spoke to us this morning explained the significance of the taxpayers' investment in various ways:

Ken Sumsion, Utah State Representative for District 56, which includes Lehi, Saratoga Springs, and parts of American Fork, explained that transportation is an economic engine, making this an important and timely investment in his district. His district, with its population of 90,000, is the largest legislative district in the state; it is projected to grow to 300,000 by the year 2030; and even in the recession it has generated some 200 building permits per year. Clearly, funding this transportation corridor at this time was a far-sighted move on the part of the state and county legislatures.

Congressman Jim Matheson, of Utah's 2nd Congressional District, similarly explained the importance of investment in transportation, saying that it creates jobs in the short term and, in the long term, creates a tangible asset of infrastructure.

From Governor Gary Herbert, we learned that the state legislature has increased transportation funding by 500 percent since 2005, when the state invested a mere $50 million per year. Weighed against $260 million for just six miles at Pioneer Crossing, that earlier figure seems woefully inadequate for a state that grows at twice the national rate. He was proud to remind us that Utah, in large part because of these investments, was recently rated the top state for business, both in terms of its quality of life and the health of its business climate.

Governor Herbert also praised UDOT for its leadership and innovation, pointing out that the bridge farm -- the process of constructing bridges off-site and rolling them into place overnight -- was a UDOT innovation, pioneered right here in American Fork, and now being copied in other states. Techniques such as this, he said, are stretching the taxpayers' dollars as far as possible.

The new diverging diamond interchange at Main Street is itself a significant innovation, only the second of its kind in the United States, and it is now open.

Truly, this is a red letter day.

For all the skinny on the Pioneer Crossing, including a virtual "test-drive" of the bewildering diamond, please visit the UDOT project page here.


Blogger David Rodeback said...

Perhaps people from Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain can now come to American Fork to shop more quickly than they could get to most of Lehi.

August 24, 2010 at 1:16 PM  

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