COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — A large group of Cottonwood Heights residents gathered at the Golden Hills park to protest a proposed expansion of Wasatch Boulevard between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
The group, called Save Not Pave, argues that an expansion would put all of the residents who live on either side of the road at an increased risk for accidents. The group's founder, longtime Cottonwood Heights resident Ellen Birrell, said there have been many close calls over the years, and she wants something done before the worst happens.
"The issue of unsafe roads and high speeds, high volume of cars and high speeds, through residential areas is wrong," she said. "It's dangerous, it's lethal."
Save Not Pave was formed in early 2020 in response to Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) plans to expand Wasatch Boulevard, also known as State Road 210, to accommodate more traffic.
"It is not acceptable for UDOT to say, 'We're going to take the lanes from nine-foot lanes to eleven-foot lanes, we're going to add several lanes and then if we later want to lower the speed limit we will,'" Birrell added.
High speeds and increased traffic have been major concerns for residents in the area for quite some time. In 2019, the Cottonwood Heights City Council worked with UDOT to try and reduce the speed limit from 50 mph to 35 mph.
During a city council meeting in July of 2019, UDOT's Wasatch Boulevard project manager John Thomas said they were "trying to find a way, and it looks pretty positive, to post it at 35 miles per hour."
According to their website, Save Not Pave took Thomas's statement as a commitment by UDOT to reduce the speed limit.
UDOT's current plans would add an "imbalanced 3 lane, or 5 lane" expansion, and would not reduce speeds on the road.
"It's been dangerous for a long time," Birrell said. "This is one of the most bicycled places in the state of Utah, and yet there are no protected bike lanes. And in portions of Wasatch Boulevard, SR 210, there is even no bike lane at all!"
In a statement sent to FOX 13, UDOT spokesperson John Gleason said: "We appreciate the input we’ve received from the Cottonwood Heights community. Public participation is a vital component and helps support the decision-making process. We want to encourage everyone who attended today to stay involved and provide their comments during the next public comment period, once the Draft Enviromental [sic] Impact Statement (EIS) is released this summer.”
The stretch of Wasatch Boulevard in question has seen increased traffic in the last few years as more people look to access both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, which has become a source of contention for commuters in the area. Save Not Pave says the safety of residents in the area should take precedence over convenience for those recreating in the canyons.