After decades of talk, it appears Midvalley Highway, a least its first phase, is finally coming to Tooele Valley thanks to the 2017 Utah Legislature and some key players.
As reported in last Tuesday’s front-page story headlined, “Bond is big news for Midvalley Highway,” the Legislature approved a $1 billion transportation bond, of which an unspecified amount has been committed for the highway’s first phase.
The current plan calls for phase one to begin on Interstate 80 about five miles west of exit 99 at Lake Point and will proceed south to state Highway 138 near Sheep Lane. It also includes building a full interchange on I-80 that will provide on- and off-ramps for both east- and west-bound traffic.
From there, either a two- or four-lane highway will connect the new interchange with SR-138. Although either configuration has yet to be publicly decided, engineering estimates put the two-lane highway at approximately $65 million and the four-lane at approximately $105 million.
All of which is in addition to the $1.8 million in Corridor Preservation Funds the Tooele County Commission has spent buying 177 acres for phase one and another 45 acres for future related interchanges. That is on top of the $4 million the county, Utah Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration spent on an environmental impact study on the proposed highway in 2007.
But it is the Legislature’s money, the governor’s anticipated signature of approval for the bond, and UDOT’s commitment that now makes Midvalley Highway’s first phase appear certain.
For Midvalley Highway proponents, local officials, and perhaps thousands of local commuters who fight heavy traffic on SR-36 and SR-138 every day, that certainty has been a long time coming. Midvalley Highway discussions between local officials can be found in meeting minutes and Transcript Bulletin news coverage dating back decades.
But the proposed highway’s prominence to help relieve commuter and commercial truck pressure on SR-36 and SR-138 really pushed to the forefront during the last 20 years, and more specifically, the last decade as Tooele Valley’s population and number of commuters have swelled.
The evidence of that growth is felt every time an accident occurs on either I-80, SR-36 or SR-138 at morning or evening rush hours, which often results in massive delays for residents trying to get to and from work on the Wasatch Front.
Sometimes, no accident is required to create chaos, as evidenced on Jan. 30, when pothole repairs at exit 99 caused westbound I-80 traffic to back up for several hours and prompted UDOT’s director to go on social media and apologize.
Although that incident inconvenienced many, its timing just one week after the start of the 2017 Utah Legislature couldn’t have been more serendipitous to help convince state officials that Tooele County needs another exit on I-80 to better serve thousands of county — and state of Utah — residents.
Community appreciation is extended to Tooele County Commissioners Myron Bateman, Wade Bitner and Shawn Milne, Reps. Merrill Nelson and Doug Sagers, and other vital contributors who worked hard during the Legislature to make Midvalley Highway a funding priority with the state.
Better traveling days are hopefully soon ahead.