brings highway congestion -- 'a UDOT issue' -- to Providence
December 14, 2008 | PROVIDENCE -- Folks in Providence
see different things when they look at the stretch of
SR-165 that passes through their city, from Macey's
grocery and fuel supercenter to the brand-new Zions
Mayor Randy Simmons sees a stretch of valuable real
estate prime for development, and a resulting influx
of sales tax money from the bustling retail zone, which,
for now, exists only in his head.
Restaurateur Jeremy Jones sees a shopping destination
for the valley's residents, replete with retailers and
eateries which will draw traffic to Providence's burgeoning
downtown and boost walk-in sales at Iron Gate Grille,
one of the first businesses to locate in Providence.
Doctor Laura Fisher sees a death trap, a dangerous
stretch of highway "that's going to kill people" as
more and more cars turn in and out of businesses and
try to merge with speeding traffic.
This fall, Simmons and the City Council conceded to
enter into a cooperative corridor agreement with neighboring
communities Logan, Nibley, Millville and Hyrum, as well
as Cache County and the Utah Department of Transportation.
The agreement, available for downloading at http://www.cachempo.org/hwy165/Cooperative_Agreement-9-4-08.doc,
contains the rather broad mandate to "facilitate traffic
flow along SR-165" through those communities. As part
of the agreement, UDOT assigned the highway a federal
highway classification of four, which allows for commercial
access to the road every 500 feet. After the council
initially signed the agreement to make their stretch
of highway a level four road, Utah State Representative
and Providence resident Curt Webb used back channels
to convince UDOT to reclassify SR-165 in Providence
as a level five road, which allows for commercial access
every 350 feet, and lowers the speed limit from 55 to
45 mph. <> Jones, seeing the potential to increase business
at his restaurant, said of the increased access, "they
need to do it for sure."
However, that comment was immediately followed up
with, "do they plan to increase the number of stop lights?"
And there's the rub.
According to the cooperative corridor agreement, which
lists future sites of traffic signals going from Providence
to Hyrum, traffic signals will only be built once certain
traffic benchmarks, called "minimum traffic signal warrants"
in the CCA, are met. Locations are also subject to field
review by UDOT before any new signal will go up.
The new light can't come soon enough for Jill Nelson,
branch manager at Zion's. Nelson says she uses the intersection
of SR-165 and 1700 South, which is an approved future
site for a traffic signal, to get to work, and calls
it "kind of a scary corner."
Dr. Fisher has been a fierce critic of Simmons' plans
to develop Providence since the mayor took office in
2005. Never mind what SR-165 in Providence will look
like when it is fully developed; to Fisher, the sprawling
Macey's complex, a recent addition to the corner of
SR-165 and 100 North, is bad enough.
"The access [to Macey's] should not be right off of
the high-speed road out there. My opinion would be that
it's definitely going to have a human cost," Fisher
"The Macey's deal was a low-bid production in that
they should have had all kinds of safety increasing
access roads so that people, instead of turning right
off this road into the big shopping area, would've had
to slow down and make other arrangements and go in on
the Providence east-west street which is 100 North,"
she continued. "They just wanted to let them do the
cheapest possible, excremental if you will, looking
For Simmons, the (for now) largely hypothetical retail
zone along SR-165 represents dollars he needs to continue
providing a high level of service to his constituents
without raising a property tax rate he calls one of
the lowest in the county. (Fisher has a bone to pick
with this as well, as she says Simmons has had her home
and others in Providence reassessed at far above their
real market value, so that she is paying more than ever
in property taxes despite the real estate market crashing
Pointing out that North Logan pulls in $1.8 million
in total sales tax revenue annually, much more than
Providence, Simmons says, "the fact that they have Wal-Mart
and K-Mart and Kohl's and everything along the side
of the street there is a pretty big deal. We won't have
nearly that distance of commercial development but we
can have substantially more than we currently have."
If Providence city is indeed, as Fisher says, getting
the cart in front of the horse by encouraging development
along SR-165 before additional traffic signals are installed,
Simmons lays the problem at UDOT's feet. "You're not
going to attract any businesses if you can't have any
access. The access is the horse, and then businesses
will come. If you could put in a light, it would attract
more businesses but what we have to do is attract the
businesses and increase the traffic in order for them
to put in the light. That's the case where I do think
we have the cart before the horse but that's a UDOT
issue, not our choice. Our only choice is to increase
Jones, who bet early on the potential of a Providence
retail district, says "there's no way that they can
help a business owner without giving them access." For
Jones, it may or not be the right thing to move businesses
into the fields along SR-165, but having decided that
it wants to follow that course, the city is now bound
to help out those like himself, who have bet their livelihoods
on the success of their business. "Either do it or don't,"
Jones says, "But if you do it, do it right."
Simmons insists that "when we get this all pulled
off it will really be a major benefit," and will never
look like Logan's section of SR-165, the congested north
Main Street with commercial access points inside of
100 feet of another. North Main in Logan and North Logan
was overdeveloped with accesses all willy-nilly because,
Simmons says, it was developed before current UDOT regulations
came into effect.
"The access into Macey's is 400 feet from the light,
so there will not be another access between the light
and that access on the east side of the road," Simmons
says. "So it's not that we are talking about filling
it up the way the road is between Logan and Smithfield.
That's not what is going to happen here. We don't want
anything closer than 350 precisely because we want to
be a corridor that moves traffic but also allows people
to have access to businesses and 350 feet is a good
Whether the area becomes the scrap metal alley of
Fisher's imagination or the thriving yet safe shopping
destination of Simmons', it's clear that Hyrum residents
driving into Logan will need to leave earlier to reach
their destination on time. Simmons says there are no
alternate high-speed routes for north-south traffic.
"People want the best of everything," Jones says.
"You used to be able to go from Logan to Preston in
30 minutes and you can't do that anymore."