Utah Lake causeway idea just a ‘futuristic fantasy’

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    By Seth Lewis

    It wasn’t a mind-blinding epiphany or any sort of revelation.

    To county engineer Clyde Naylor, the idea to put a causeway across Utah Lake just made sense.

    It came to him 10 years ago while studying the uses of Utah Lake. Even then, local traffic was quickly becoming a problem, and a causeway seemed the perfect way to funnel Utah Valley’s growth crush.

    “Right now, we’re totally congested because there’s so little space between the lake and the mountains,” Naylor said.

    Naylor’s idea was lauded by some and laughed at by the rest.

    “There were people who thought it would be a good idea and other people who thought it was wild and out of place,” he said.

    But after a decade, the causeway cause has all but lost its following, and Naylor is left with his futuristic fantasy.

    “I think it’s just theoretical,” Provo manager Robert Stockwell said.

    “I don’t forsee anyone in Provo trying to push this through,” said Jason Bench, Provo’s project planner.

    “It hasn’t been something we’ve really discussed seriously,” said Kristin Thompson, manager of development and community relations for Envision Utah, a public/private planning group.

    And Naylor, too, said his plan is on the backburner – a curious place for an issue that could play into the latest craze to populate the west side of the lake.

    Eagle Mountain was born just west of Lehi in December 1996, and Saratoga Springs followed one year later a few miles south on the northwest edge of Utah Lake.

    Since then, the communities have exploded.

    Eagle Mountain had 148 residents in 1997. This year, Mountain Land Association estimates it will have 2,144.

    Saratoga Springs had 175 in 1997, and is estimated to have as many as 1,221 this year.

    Then there’s Mosida Orchards, a new development further south on the lake that has sold nearly half of its 80 9.5-acre lots.

    “They’ve already proven very viable,” Naylor said.

    Maybe, but Stockwell said no one has pushed for a causeway.

    And Provo is not going to promote such a plan unless it wants to annex the communities west of the lake as its own.

    “It would make no sense to build a causeway to other cities,” Stockwell said.

    Naylor figures a causeway – which would likely span the five miles between the Provo-Orem border and Pelican Point – is 10-15 years off for several reasons:

    Legacy Highway.

    Without a major highway vein running along the west side of Utah Lake, future high-density development is practically impossible – making a causeway meaningless.

    Enter Legacy Highway.

    Although the proposed freeway’s current plans show the highway running only along the west edge of Davis County, skirting the Great Salt Lake as it heads to I-215, Naylor envisions it extending down the Wasatch Front, west of Utah Lake, to Nephi.

    “It probably won’t happen until Legacy Highway goes through,” he said. “There needs to be something to generate it.”

    Even more important to generating such a project might be money.

    “The cost would be huge,” Stockwell said. “You’re talking megabucks to build.”

    Stockwell said the city’s 10-year master plan for roads will cost $41 million – and that’s just for streets within the current city limits.

    Naylor estimates the causeway could cost as much as $150 million.

    “Economically, I don’t know of anyone who would front the money,” Bench said.

    A bond measure or added taxes wouldn’t be needed if the causeway were made a toll road, Naylor said.

    Then there’s the issue of preserving wetlands and the lake’s June sucker fish.

    “It would take years and years to go through the environmental issues,” Stockwell said.

    And with Provo already wrestling with the South Campus Area Master Plan and the Airport Master Plan, a causeway becomes a frivolous issue, Stockwell said.

    “We have a lot of other priorities first,” Stockwell said.

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