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Ranchers, officials propose different paths when it comes to collector road

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Posted at 10:51 PM, Feb 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-20 00:51:22-05

ST GEORGE, Utah - Ranchers in St. George are fighting the city on improvements to a major collector road, saying the increased traffic from new developments and the long history of agriculture in the area don’t mix.

Growth in the Little Valley area is booming, and with all those new homes comes the need to widen roads. The city council is poised to approve a bid to improve the main artery, Little Valley Road, but ranchers who live on the road said the city should be looking elsewhere.

“Traffic and agriculture do not mix,” Paul Gooch said. “This is one of the big things that’s coming to a head here.”

Gooch and others have petitioned the city to look at alternate transportation routes, saying the road, which has long been a quiet, country one, should stay that way, citing safety as a primary factor.

“I have sometimes 9, 10, 11 mules on my place,” Gooch said. “And if I could have a mule get out and cause an accident or something like that, I’m just terrified by that.”

In fact, something similar did happen. Monday, a resident on horseback was sideswiped by a passing car. There were no serious injuries, but the incident does show the need for some kind of improvement. City transportation services manager Cameron Cutler said there’s little alternative. Little Valley Road has been the preferred route for a long time.

“As of 1982, it was on our master plan as a collector road,” Cutler said. “It has been before development went out there. It’s just that we’ve never improved it to the collector road status, the wider pavement, the curb gutter sidewalk, until now.”

Crews have already closed off a section for initial preparations showing how traffic diverts, but those detours run through right by an intermediate and elementary school. All sides agree that’s not preferable.

“The plan when they made it was to widen Little Valley Road,” said Little Valley Resident Heather Pinegar. “That was always in their plan. That needs to stay the solution, because going in front of two schools is not the solution.”

The city council will consider a bid for the project at Thursday’s city council meeting, and they will also hear from residents on the issue. If they approve the bid, construction could start this spring.