OPINION — The objective of the proposed Northern Corridor Highway is to accommodate east-west traffic through the St. George area and reduce congestion in areas such as the Interstate 15/Green Spring interchange.

I believe that most residents and visitors would agree that an east-west highway in some location is necessary to accommodate the expected continued growth in the area.

As proposed, the Northern Corridor Highway would measure approximately eight miles, from I-15 Exit 13 in Washington City to Red Hills Parkway near Pioneer Park/Dixie Rock.

Unfortunately, about half of the proposed Northern Corridor Highway would pass through or near existing neighborhoods, and the other half would pass through the Red Cliffs Reserve.

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in Washington County, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Melinda Kaye, St. George News

The portion of the highway that would pass through the Reserve is estimated to be the costliest roadway on a per mile basis in Utah’s history, in part because it would require the construction of at least two bridges to span large ravines in the reserve.

One of the alternative locations for an east-west highway — as identified in the Environmental Impact Study commissioned by the BLM — is to add a new I-15 exit and entrance directly onto Red Hills Parkway between the Green Spring exit and St. George Boulevard Exit 10.

Parts of Red Hills Parkway would be widened and modified to accommodate additional traffic. At this location, I-15 runs within 100 feet and parallel to Red Hills Parkway, with nothing located in between.

This alternative location would avoid the Red Cliffs Reserve entirely, and compared to the proposed highway through the reserve, is a shorter more direct route with lower travel times, avoids disturbing existing neighborhoods and it could be constructed at a far lower cost. It would also avoid the continued cost of litigating the potential reserve preservation issues.

It seems that local and state government officials have aligned with the proposed Northern Corridor Highway through the reserve as part of a larger narrative and positioning around Federal versus State control of lands.

But logic and fiscal responsibility would suggest that the alternative route linking I-15 directly to Red Hills Parkway is a superior outcome for all parties.

Submitted by Daren Shaw, Washington City, Utah.

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