Northern Corridor/Washington Parkway Highway

 

Meeting our transportation needs without the Northern Corridor Highway

CSU at the Dixie Transportation Expo

Conserve Southwest Utah shared grassroots transportation alternatives with hundreds of Washington County residents at the Dixie Transportation Expo

 

Over 600 people attended the Dixie Transportation Expo on February 12th to learn about the future of transportation in Washington County, including controversial projects like Washington City’s Mile Post 11 interchange, the Washington Parkway and the Northern Corridor Highway that would fragment the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA). Conserve Southwest Utah provided outreach on the values of the Red Cliffs NCA, the threat posed by the proposed Northern Corridor Highway and potential solutions.

A few booths down, the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization (DMPO) displayed two large televisions running simulations of 2050 traffic levels with and without the proposed Northern Corridor. Pixelated gray and red cars clogged roads on the screen modeling the no-Northern Corridor scenario, suggesting the inevitability of gridlock and need for the corridor. CSU has asked for data that feed these simulations, but have yet to see that information. Many who watched the simulations were prepared with great questions they had first considered at CSU’s booth:

  • If we had to meet our transportation needs without the Northern Corridor, how would we do it?
  • Could Red Hills Parkway flyovers help with the flow of east-west traffic?
  • What can we do to help more people take advantage of public transit and get individual vehicles off the road?
  • Wouldn’t implementing Vision Dixie principles help solve future transportation challenges?

CSU’s package of possible transportation alternatives attempted to address the DMPO’s top concerns: congestion at Green Springs Exit 10 and St. George Blvd. Exit 8, and smooth east-west traffic flow across the county. Our grassroots alternatives were well received, because they reduce traffic while protecting the Red Cliffs NCA and the Mojave Desert Tortoise critical habitat, recreation, tourism and quality of life that the land supports.

Alternatives fell into two categories: those catering to the traditional, vehicle-centric model of transportation and those focusing on multi-modal and active forms of transportation that move people, not vehicles. A combination of both approaches will be necessary to meet Washington County’s transportation needs in the future.

It’s important to remember that transportation needs are linked to the way cities grow. When rapid development drives infrastructure needs, the system is out of balance and must be corrected. Implementing Vision Dixie Smart Growth principles in our cities would make multi-modal and active transportation a reality for more people.

It is essential to analyze routes outside the Red Cliffs NCA that could solve Washington County’s traffic problems. The Red Hills Parkway flyovers are one of eleven possible transportation alternatives that CSU believes could help. 

Conserve Southwest Utah is a grassroots organization made up of local residents who are passionate about protecting our public lands for present and future generations. We are not professional transportation planners or traffic modelers, but we are engaged citizens with diverse backgrounds which include engineering and planning, and we can see that the county has not been transparent in how it arrived at the Northern Corridor as the “right” solution to traffic congestion. In fact, this very road was rejected several years ago in a study.

Multiple requests for a technical review of the transportation model and the proposed Northern Corridor/Washington Parkway highway have been ignored. We seek this technical review so that we can understand the constraints, conditions, assumptions and inputs to the model in order to more effectively suggest and analyze transportation alternatives outside the NCA.

We will continue requesting a technical review and advocating for meaningful opportunities for the public to engage in the transportation decisions that impact so many facets of our lives. In the meantime, we will offer the best grassroots transportation alternatives that we can for consideration by the public, local elected officials and planners.

Conserve Southwest Utah’s Grassroots Transportation Alternatives

Click here to see CSU’s 2019 Dixie Transportation Survey Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information on proposed highway. Click Here:

Northern Corridor/Washington Parkway Highway Fact Sheet

See video of the highway :

The proposed Washington Parkway extension from I-15 to Green Springs Drive is being considered as well.

St George News article by Mori Kessler Jan 29th, 2019:

St. George News Article

“WASHINGTON CITY —As a part of plans to connect Washington Parkway to the northern end of Green Springs Drive, an open house was held Thursday in Washington City to take public input on the project. 

“We’re always worried about Green Springs (Drive) and Telegraph (Street) at Exit 10,” Shaw said. “This gives another way at the top of Green Springs for people to get out on the interstate. We’re really just trying to help the traffic there.”

The first phase of the build will feature two lanes of traffic in either direction and a 22-foot wide center median, Shaw said.

Future improvements to the roadway will be added by developers as the area grows.

“It gives people a chance to give their opinion on the parkway and what they would like to see,” said Mike Shaw, Washington City’s public works director.

The project has been in the works for a while, with $4.2 million in funding gained through the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization over the last year. The overall project is estimated to cost $6 million.

Reasons for connecting the roads include providing residents of the Green Springs area with a second access to Interstate 15 at the Washington Parkway/Exit 13 interchange, as well as taking a little more pressure off the Green Springs/Exit 10 interchange.

The route for the Washington Parkway extension has already been cut though the area and graded by the city. People currently use it a dirt road, Shaw said.

The Washington Parkway-to-Green Springs Drive extension will also serve as the eastern connection point to the pending and contested northern corridor through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The establishment of the corridor is currently the subject of legislation in the U.S. House and Senate.

Thursday’s open house is part of an overall environmental impact study required by federal planning regulation, Shaw said.

If all goes well, the city may be able to put the project out to bid in the near future, he said.”

Washington City votes yes on the highway.

Steward’s House Bill HB 5597 and Lee’s S3297 Senate Bill died at the end of 115th Congress. But, local officials are still pushing hard for the highway. Read more information on highway below.

HR5597 and S3297, the House and Senate bills proposed by Washington County to force the Northern Corridor highway through prime tortoise habitat in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA)/Reserve died with the end of the 115th Congress.  Thanks to all of you, our members, supporters and allies who helped stop these bills.  It took two trips to Washington DC and many letters from you. We can take heart from this success, but there is still much work ahead to protect the threatened tortoise and the Red Cliffs NCA.

Washington County has now requested a right-of-way for the highway through the normal process provided by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). This gives all of us a chance to weigh in on the highway corridor during the required public comment period.  It also gives us time to work closely with our elected officials to find a shared solution that works for all of us.

While the County Commissioners and the Utah Department of Transportation work through NEPA, Conserve Southwest Utah will continue to work with our public officials and transportation planners to look for solutions to our transportation needs that will be a win for the tortoise, our public lands, and our public officials. We will need your continued support.

Information on the Stewart’s House Bill:

On April 24, 2018, Rep Chris Stewart introduced a bill 5597 into the House of Representatives. The Washington County Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan Expansion Bill.

It would mandate an unnecessary and damaging highway through a protected wildlife preserve in violation of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and the Endangered Species Act. It would destroy the purpose of the HCP to recover the desert tortoise.

Here is some background information on this flawed highway bill:

·         In 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the tortoise as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This could have slowed development on private and state land in the county.

·         In 1995, local officials signed an agreement to establish a county-wide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to permanently protect the tortoise habitat on 61,022 acres in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve (Reserve) that includes some private, state and BLM land. In trade 300,000 acres of private and state land outside of reserve were released for development. This allowed development on lands outside the HCP to continue. HCPs are developed to reduce the regulatory burden on private landowners while addressing the habitat needs of listed species. The Reserve was not only for the tortoise. Washington County has some of highest density of Endangered, Threatened and Special Status Species with 40 more candidate species that could be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Reserve has provided economic stability by allowing development outside the reserve to go ahead in the county for over 20 years.

·         The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) was established by U.S. Congress in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act in 2009 (Public Law111-11) to permanently protect this tortoise Reserve in St. George, Utah.

·         $60-100 million dollars of federal funds have been spent over 20 years on trading and buying land inside the Reserve to acquire desert tortoise habitat. Private land owners inside the reserve benefited greatly from the trade because they received much more land they had inside the Reserve.

·         However, local officials want to go back on their HCP pledge to permanently protect the Reserve and build a highway through the wildlife Reserve.

·         The bill, if passed, would overturn portions of BLM’s Resource Management Plans for the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Areas, bypass the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and NEPA’s public process, ignores the existing Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for management of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, and subvert the authority of USFWS to enforce the Endangered Species Act to protect the threatened Mojave Desert Tortoise that is required by law.

·         The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) was set aside by Congress to protect tortoise habitat is no place for a new highway.

·         This proposed highway was already turned down by the courts.

There was never a promise made for a highway inside the Reserve.  BLM, US Fish & Wildlife and biologists have turned the highway down time and time again over 20 years. This is why they need new legislation.
·         This bill renews an HCP that would violate the Endangered Species Act by allowing a highway through prime habitat.

·         There is already a highway that goes through the Reserve from east to west called the Red Hills Parkway. The Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization (DMPO) that plans highways should make a good-faith effort to study alternative routes and/or ways of meeting the transportation needs the Northern Corridor highway is intended to resolve by running Travel Demand models that avoid a route through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve that violates the Public Law 111-11.Proper zoning around choke points could be a solution.

·         The County wants to build a highway through the reserve and then protect other property on the west side of county called Zone 6. But it also has a proposed highway through it and is not legislatively NCA protected habitat or prime habitat.  Zone 6 is not prime habitat and should be opposed as a trade for highway in prime habitat in Reserve.

·         The highway isn’t needed, that sensible alternatives exist, and that the science says this sensitive habitat will be irreparably damaged by impacts from a highway due to fragmentation, more fire, fencing, traffic, noise, trash and pollution.

·         This bill violates of Federal environmental laws, the HCP, the ESA and NCA designation.

·         This bill does an end run around all these laws that now protect the NCA.

Stewart bill

Read Habitat Conservation Plan information.

https://conserveswu.org/habitat-conservation-plan-hcp/

Van Dam, Paul public hearing testimony Jan 22 2016

Testimony Paper HR 5597 FINAL, May 22, 2018