- The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is moving forward with a $275 million plan to convert a stretch of U.S. 89 between the cities of Farmington and South Weber into a six-lane freeway that will connect Interstates 15 and 84, according to Roads & Bridges. The agency said the project will reduce future traffic congestion through the area.
- The UDOT decision comes after the agency released its final environmental study last week. Work will include changing traffic signal intersections to freeway interchanges or grade-separated crossings, as well as eliminating direct access to the new freeway in some areas and providing new frontage-road access in others.
- UDOT said it will now start working on a specific design for the freeway and begin acquiring the necessary property. However, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, advocacy group Residents' Voice United said it will sue to stop the project. According to the group, the new freeway will change the nature of residential neighborhoods currently adjacent to U.S. 89. Group representatives also say the conversion constitutes poor planning since there are existing parallel freeways a few miles away.
Major new highway or transportation projects often cut through or run up against established neighborhoods. That process sometimes necessitates the relocation of homes and business, which is almost sure to meet with resistance from property owners. The often-onerous task or acquiring the required land also puts a burden on the agency trying to build the project.
In a draft of its annual business plan, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) said project costs have increased to approximately $77 billion on the agency's bullet train between Northern and Southern California because it let out construction contracts for certain segments of the line before the necessary parcels had been acquired.
In 2016, the CHRSA approved a change order to Tutor Perini for $63.6 million to cover the costs associated with the contractor having to wait to execute on its contract and to accelerate construction to make up for lost time. Real estate prices have also increased since the CHSRA developed its original budget, meaning the agency has to absorb those costs. Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported CHSRA was facing at least another $300 million in additional contractor change orders.
Sometimes resistance to highway projects stems from concerns about how those projects could affect the character of neighborhoods or if they could become an environmental hazard. For Kiewit's $2.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through Denver, protests have erupted on both fronts. Some critics claim the project will result in the gentrification of a largely Hispanic neighborhood, and others filed a legal challenge concerning how construction will impact a nearby Superfund site.