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The Utah Department of Transportation on Thursday continued to field concerns from worried parents in the Granite School District who fear plans for the future Mountain View Corridor freeway could create a dangerous traffic situation for Hunter High School students.
About 30 parents, students and neighbors showed up at a Thursday meeting at the Hunter High library. The meeting was meant only for Granite School District officials, including Superintendent Martin Bates, and UDOT employees. But parents showed up to the closed meeting anyway, anxious to repeat their concerns about children's safety as officials discussed the next steps in the project.
"I think it's going to cause people to die," said parent Barbara Stallone of West Valley City.
Thursday's meeting followed a school board meeting earlier this month, where members voted 6-1 to ask the Utah Department of Transportation to consider moving a planned interchange at 4100 South where it would border Hunter High and an off-ramp would impact access to its parking lot to 4700 South instead.
Teri Newell, UDOT's project manager for Mountain View, told the board at that meeting that UDOT will work with the district and community to review options, but said UDOT's environmental review process ruled it is wiser to have an interchange at 4100 South. UDOT already has started earthwork near 4700 South, assuming no interchange will go there.
"The decision really was made in 2008 to go to 41st," said Bates, addressing the charged audience of concerned neighbors. "So now what we're trying to do is maximize safety."
Newell said 4700 South was eliminated for an interchange in part because it continues only a short way to the west beyond where it would intersect with Mountain View, so an interchange there would not take enough traffic off local streets. But 4100 South goes through for miles to the west, and would be a better conduit to Mountain View.
She also said that a power station, water tanks and railroad tracks at 4700 South make it difficult to have an interchange there without expensive relocations.
UDOT's logistical difficulties aren't on the top of parental concern lists, however.
"My concern is that we decided it is easier to go to 4100 South, so we are going to sacrifice the safety of our students," Cornell Porter, a concerned parent, said at the meeting earlier this month. "It may be difficult on 47th, but I'd much rather see a water tower, or power station or even a railroad moved than to lose some of our youth."
Porter also spoke as president of the LDS Hunter Central Stake, and said hundreds of the church's members would be put at risk daily because Hunter High's access to 4100 South would become a right-turn-only entrance and exit. He worries students would try to cut across lanes of traffic to make a U-turn at the busy intersection of 4100 South and 5600 West.
"It's an accident or accidents waiting to happen," he warned.
Hunter High School Principal John Welburn has said the plan feeding off-ramp traffic directly where Hunter students would be trying to enter traffic is dangerous.
Mark Goodman, a stake presidency counselor to Porter, said while Hunter students can use a second parking lot exit onto 5600 West, that would also direct many back to its intersection with 4100 South which he said is busy, and where two students were killed last May.
Newell has assured residents that UDOT will study traffic at the Hunter High parking lot, and review options a promise repeated at Thursday's meeting.
"We're confident we can do a safe interchange at 4100 South," Newell said at the meeting Thursday. "We're committed to making it safe."
Parents who crashed Thursday's meeting at Hunter High said they weren't provided with enough timely information from UDOT about the project and accused the organization of not caring about their opinions or how the changes will affect student safety.
Sally Richardson, a parent of a Hunter High student, said UDOT's mind was made up regardless of how the community felt. "We sent e-mails, we sent letters, we sent all kinds of things. They'd already decided," she said.
To that Newell responded, "Anytime that we feel the public needs to hear from us or understand what's going on we're glad to respond to that... We didn't realize that there was an issue out there."
Newell said the first phase of construction on Mountain View between 5400 South and 4100 South is scheduled to be funded in 2014 essentially to build future frontage roads, while the freeway will be built between them at a later date.