Utah's first pike Ogden's I-84 toll connector
By Peter Samuel
Utah's first pike
Ogden's I-84 toll connector
The government of Utah has given its approval, and some aid, to the first toll road in the state this century. The I-84 connector will be one of the world's shortest toll roads (3-lanes and less than 2km), and one of the steepest (8% grade) but Pearce Shelton, the city administrator in Washington Terrace City in the southern part of Ogden thinks it will enormously improve the quality of life by reducing through traffic on its main streets (some of which are cluttered with 40k veh/day), and providing direct access from the I-84 "belt route" to the regional hospital. It will also help the local economy by opening otherwise unattractive isolated city land to development.
On March 3 Utah's legislature passed a new enabling law for private toll roads to be built (HB266) and the same day appropriated money to support the I-84 Connector. Local land owner and developer Doug Stephens, already has a franchise agreement with Weber County to build the toll connector as part of a package deal to develop the land for housing and commercial uses, including a golf course already being built.
The toll project consists of a connector road northward of an existing interchange with I-84, which presently only has local links southward. It starts with a 150m long bridge north over over Weber River and the Union Pacific railroad lines alongside it, and then 2km of looping roadway rising 90m up an escarpment of the Weber canyon meeting the present deadend of Adam's Avenue, which links into Washington Boulevard (US-89) the main street of the town. Consulting engineer Ken Gardner says the project shouldn't cost more than $8m based on rough estimates. Land owner and developer Stephens will finance the toll road helped by $2 million appropriated by the Utah legislature and hopes to develop his land based on its new accessibility to the I-84 freeway.
The toll road which is to have two lanes up the escarpment and one lane downhill will have a toll plaza on a flatter section about midway, possibly with a 25c toll to be paid at an automatic coin machine, though the designers will look at a credit card reader and e-toll tags.
The link will help somewhat to improve access southward toward Salt Lake City itself (over 50km away) but there's a possibility of extending the toll road south skirting around the perimeter of Hill Air Force base and connecting with I-15 and the future Westside Highway, a relief road and airport access route envisaged to run close by the edge of the Great Salt Lake.
Historic pass: The area reeks of history. Weber Canyon was the earliest pass through the Wasatch mountains, and was a key part of the Mormon trail into Utah. Local history has it that one of the earliest Ogden settlers Asael Farr built a road into the mountains to the east for loggers, possibly the first toll road in the state in about the 1860s. And the proposed bridge of the I-84 Connector will cross over the line of the first Transcontinental railroad near where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific trains used to change at Ogden station, which is not far from Promontory Point where the Chinese construction crews from the Pacific and Irish crews from the Mississippi met and a gold spike was driven to celebrate the linking of the coasts by rail in 1869.
Shelton says the idea for a toll road got a big boost from the current governor Mike Leavitt. They were meeting with Leavitt in 1995 in the governor's office trying to get tax money for the project, in a pattern of requests that had been made unsuccessfully every few years for 20 years, and he said to them: "Why don't you try something innovative, like financing it as a toll road." (Contacts: Pearce Shelton, City Admin 801 393 8681; Ken Gardner cons. engr 801 476 0202)