Stansbury Park Service Agency officials may, or have already learned, when it comes to taking proactive, common sense steps to safeguard pedestrians, not everyone shares their anticipatory approach.
As reported in last Thursday’s front-page story, “SPSA considers funding for SR-138 underpass,” the service agency is reviewing whether or not it should use a $200,000 federal grant to help design and engineer a pedestrian underpass below state Route 138.
The underpass’s purpose is to provide safer pedestrian access across the busy state highway, better connect the Benson Gristmill area with the rest of the Stansbury community to the south, and link trail systems. It may also help provide a safer route for Stansbury children, who live south of SR-138, to walk or bike to and from Old Mill Elementary when it opens this fall.
Last Thursday’s story reported that service agency officials have decided to further investigate the grant’s requirements. If the grant’s guidelines stipulate only federal dollars can be used to not only engineer, but also build the underpass, officials fear it may result in delays and construction cost overruns.
A service agency official said it is believed the underpass could be built for around $300,000 to $400,000 but federal grants and building requirements could push the cost closer to $1 million.
When this story first broke last October, we published an editorial in support of the service agency’s efforts to pursue the underpass instead of the Utah Department of Transportation’s current proposal: an at-grade crosswalk on SR-138 with a possible pedestrian crossing signal. In our view, such a surface crosswalk on the highway is woefully inadequate to protect both pedestrians and motorists, and may further compound morning rush hour congestion there for thousands of commuters.
That support still stands. Furthermore, agency officials’ concerns about delays and cost overruns associated with federal grants should be further investigated before making a final decision.
Meanwhile, the service agency, if it hasn’t already, could consider this three-prong approach to hopefully succeed in getting the pedestrian underpass built: continue to pursue federal dollars to pay for it, seek possible partnerships with local entities to share the underpass’s cost if federal grants are left on the table, and lastly, don’t give up asking UDOT to pay the bill.
Although UDOT officials have reportedly told the service agency there isn’t enough history of unsafe conditions — including accidents and fatalities — in that area to warrant the expense beyond a surface cross walk, those same officials may be convinced to take a second look.
Who knows, they may find something was overlooked — just like they did on Jan. 30 when they miscalculated the effects of a pothole repair job on the Exit 99 overpass that caused thousands of local commuters to get home hours late that night. UDOT’s executive director publicly apologized for the error, which was a surprise and welcomed.
But any apology for the possible loss of a child’s or adult’s life while walking across — instead of underneath — SR-138 will be hollow words when common sense suggests that a surface crosswalk between Stansbury Park and the Benson Gristmill area may cause more harm than good.