By Fiona Ricker
Construction on the highway through Provo Canyon is progressing – although it may be a little hard to tell.
“Hopefully it will be completed over the next ten years,” said Utah Department of Transportation Project Manager Dan Nelson.
Environmental concerns are the reason for the extended time frame.
These include wildlife and stability issues, water quality and the effect on people who live near the highway, said environmental project manager Dr. Tom Twedt.
According to the UDOT Web site, the Provo Canyon Highway Project, which began in 1978, will widen and realign approximately 22 miles of US-189 from Murdock Diversion in Provo to Heber City.
The objective is to improve the safety and traffic-carrying capacity of the highway.
A document, called an Environmental Impact Statement, outlying how construction projects will affect the environment is drawn up at the beginning of any project.
This must be updated with Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements every three years.
At this time, an SEIS concerning Provo Canyon is being prepared, delaying construction.
“We don’t want to get ahead of the environmental document,” Nelson said.
There have been a couple of hearings about the new document, but until it has been settled, construction can not really continue, he said.
SEIS will concentrate on the section of highway extending from Wildwood to Deer Creek State Park, a 5.3 mile stretch about halfway between Orem and Heber City.
“The next portion of the road (Wildwood to Deer Creek State Park) is set to go up the Canyon Meadows area,” Twedt said. “This is to avoid instability that might exist along the river.”
However, a lot of wildlife live in that area, which is a cause for concern. A highway going through their habitat can be very disruptive.
Homeowners in Canyon Meadows are also adversely affected by the noise and sight of the highway.
Another issue deals with the general water quality of the canyon.
“Avoidance of impact to the wetlands is important,” Twedt said.
Despite the rocky road to completion, construction is projected to be finished within a decade.
“Provo Canyon’s never been real smooth – it’s quite controversial,” Twedt said.
Anyone interested in receiving newsletters and other information on the project should send their name, complete mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address to Dr. Tom Twedt at 1063 West 1400 North, Logan, Utah 84321 or call him at (435) 752-4202.