Moab is growing. While this is not news to anyone, a downtown plan has been in the hatching for some time now, to accommodate this growth and hopefully support our community in the process. I say hopefully, though, because it is starting to seem that our quality of life will actually be sacrificed for the gentrification of the downtown area.
If you have taken Moab City’s downtown plan questionnaire, you’ll notice that one of the questions is whether or not one supports a traffic bypass. Naturally, when people are given the option of less traffic, they’ll take it. But the flaw is that there are no details in the questionnaire. Where would this bypass go? How would that affect the level of traffic noise in our small valley? How it would affect our residential areas? Would re-routing trucks at high speed through a neighborhood be worth the cost to our community? Would a bypass even be effective at reducing congestion on main?
The engineers in the downtown planning process are operating under the assumption that at some point the bypass will happen. They have also, without public input, narrowed down the bypass options to two: a) construct a bridge over the river from Potash to Kane Creek and make Kane Creek Drive a highway bypass, and b) construct a bridge over the river from Potash to Kane Creek Drive and build a highway next to the rim above the Mountain View neighborhood.
We’ve been told by the Moab City Council that there will be ample time for public input prior to any decision, and yet it appears that Utah Department of Transportation has already determined the routes it would like to see without any public process. Besides, by the time any public process happens, the groundwork for the construction will have already been laid. Money is already being allocated for studying these particular routes. Public process just for the sake of public process, as these things often play out, is of little consolation.
Full disclosure: I live in that neighborhood.
However, I would be equally opposed to any bypass going through or next to any neighborhood (imagine 400 East or 500 West, for example). Adding another highway to our small valley will amplify traffic noise incredibly; especially against the rim. I urge anyone who would support a bypass to imagine it next to their house and see if they still feel the same.
Another point is that U.S. Highway 191 traffic isn’t the problem; it’s tourist traffic. Monticello doesn’t have a traffic problem. Bypassing a full-commercial highway corridor (Main Street) to a residential area makes absolutely no sense. We will still have a congested downtown with a senseless highway dividing our community. Are they really planning on building a highway so that trucks don’t have to slow down for two miles?
So far, the plans for a bypass through Kane Creek seem incredibly backward; a step toward a resort experience for visitors at the expense of the locals. It seems that in order to make downtown nicer for the tourist experience, we will have sacrificed our residents’ quality of life in order to do so. This already happens too much without intention.
Ultimately, we need more transparency about this process, and we need more options than this particular plan. The Moab City Council should be advocating for the quality of life of residents, rather than accommodating UDOT and its concerns about transnational trucking. What about planning a downtown that doesn’t include a bypass, and still is more bike- and pedestrian-friendly?
We have options, but apparently, we have to fight for them.