A Highway 26 bypass of the city of Sandy is still an option, but the 2022 cost of the project - $240 million - remains unfunded.

PMG FILE PHOTO - According to the report from DKS Associates, the bypass could divert 40% of traffic off of Highway 26 through Sandys downtown, and today 30% of the 30,000 vehicles that travel through Sandy in a year drive straight through and dont stop. Sandy City Council is once again discussing a Sandy bypass.

On Dec. 13, staff and contractors brought an update on the new Transportation System Plan (TSP) to a council work session, including the Sandy Planning Commission, explaining results of a report on the feasibility of a potential bypass.

This updated TSP reevaluates a plan drafted in 2011, which also mentioned the idea of a bypass.

Reah Flisakowski of DKS Associates told the council the bypass is included in the latest TSP as a potential, long-term and unfunded transportation solution.

The last state-level plan for the Highway 26 corridor running through Sandy was conducted in 2008. Through this, ODOT attempted to forecast what improvements Highway 26 would require throughout the next 10 years. A bypass of the highway that runs through the center of town was proposed in the state-generated 2008 Sandy Gateway Plan, but the project was never implemented.

The original concept for a bypass of Sandy was said to most likely curve around the city's southern edge, running from west of Orient Drive to Shorty's Corner at Southeast Firwood Road.

In a previous story, city planner Kelly O'Neill said the 2008 plan did not require the city to finance the bypass.

In the current TSP that is in the works, the conceptual four-lane bypass would be south of Sandy's urban growth boundary and be 5.8 miles long. The west end would connect to Highway 26 west of Orient Drive with a new interchange. The east end would connect to Highway 26 at Firwood with a new interchange. There is also a proposed new interchange at Highway 211 and a grade-separated overcrossing at 362nd Drive.

Data reported by Flisakowski on Dec. 13 showed 2040 projections of the possible impacts and costs of the bypass.

While in today's dollars, if the project were shovel ready, a bypass around Sandy would cost about $365 million to $390 million, by 2040, that same effort could cost between $980 million and $1 billion. This cost projection includes construction, right-of-way acquisition, easements, design and construction management.

By 2040, Highway 26 will see increased traffic flow in the existing configuration, as should be expected. Flisakowski's report estimates that the bypass would serve 1,500 vehicles during future peak hour and the existing highway would serve 2,300 vehicles during future peak hour. According to the report from DKS Associates, the bypass could divert 40% of traffic off of Highway 26 through Sandy's downtown, and today 30% of the 30,000 vehicles that travel through Sandy in a year drive straight through and don't stop.

Flisakowski also presented some alternative roadway improvements in Sandy that are mentioned in the TSP that could be less expensive and shorter-term, including some local connectivity and intersection capacity projects aside from a bypass.

With the bypass available, Flisakowski explained that commuters and travelers through Sandy could save $6 million per year and $75 million over 20 years.

"There's a value that come from delays saved coming through town," she said.

Mayor Stan Pulliam, Councilor Carl Exner and Council President Jeremy Pietzold all expressed interest in seeing the bypass effort kick off sooner rather than later, with future Sandy residents in mind.

"We've got to start somewhere," said Pietzold. "Do we start now, or do we start later? When I start looking at the dates – some of us who have been around a while know how everything is slow-moving, especially when you work with the state. I'll be 90 years old before this (is completed). This is really going for our grandkids and great-grandkids, and in a lot of ways, I'm tired of kicking the can down the road. I'm excited to see it. It's important."

After this presentation, council decided to keep the bypass as a potential, unfunded project on the TSP. No further action has been scheduled, but the discussion around the bypass is still open.

Pulliam's gubernatorial campaign released a statement from the mayor on the council bypass discussion following the work session, saying:

"When I first ran for mayor in 2018, I was tired of past elected officials saying that solving our growing transportation problems was not possible. I knew Sandy wanted a leader who tried to say 'yes' and not 'no' when it came to such basic infrastructure needs."

"Sandy needs to take its destiny into its own hands and look out for its future, which is currently headed towards worsening gridlock," Pulliam added. "Building a bypass will make Sandy an even more attractive destination, not just a pass-through. Our city is committed to moving forward and addressing our major traffic congestion needs. We will carefully review the presented data and take action in the near future."

The TSP draft can be viewed online on the {obj:59554:city's website. }

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