Towns Protest Rule Requiring Medians

Towns Protest Rule Requiring Medians

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- The Utah Department of Transportation's enforcement of a rule requiring medians on state roads running through the middle of town may result in fewer accidents but also may hurt business along the streets and that has a number of smaller communities ready to seek a repeal from the Legislature.

"We found that if there's no median ... there's more accidents," Brent Wilhite, UDOT spokesman.. "Everybody just wants to turn where they want to turn. We can't have people cutting across lanes all over the place."

City leaders interpret the rule as saying medians will be put down the middle of each state road, allowing a place for business access every 300 yards.

The rule has become a major concern and it was the subject of an hours-long debate at a recent meeting of the Weber Area Council of Governments.

"When a city makes a master plan, we plan where the commercial is going," said Mayor Fred Oates of Harrisville. "That's where we put our commercial because of the traffic."

He said big cities, such as Ogden, don't rely on the state roads, but his city has two major state roads: Highway 89 and Washington Boulevard, and, "We rely on the traffic flow."

Leaders of several smaller communities say they were not involved in the process that resulted in the rule, which went into effect in January. UDOT maintains the revision has been in the works for three years, with plenty of public input.

"It wasn't just sprung on these people," Wilhite said.

UDOT said roads and access issues will be taken on a case-by-case basis, and a business or resident can contest construction of a median in front of the owner's property.

"We're trying to balance the needs. The primary function is safety," Wilhite said. "We're not going to just allow (a road without a median) because they complain."

Also, when roads are being reconstructed and a median is proposed, public hearings will be held to get feedback. But cities have a different idea about with whom to voice their objections -- state lawmakers.

"We're going to try to go to the Legislature and get it changed," Oates said. "I don't know how else the cities can do it."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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