In recent action, four members of the Grand County Council approved and submitted a letter to Love’s Inc. telling them of Grand County’s opposition to Love’s developing a truck and travel stop in southern Spanish Valley.
This truck/travel center would be located in San Juan County on 13 acres of land Love’s is purchasing from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). This truck and travel stop would return significant revenue to San Juan County, one of the poorest counties in the state, and to SITLA for use in the school system.
Grand County of course has no jurisdictional authority on SITLA lands, or in another other county for that matter. The Grand County Council nonetheless felt compelled to express their opposition. While this is not entirely unreasonable given Spanish Valley is shared by both San Juan and Grand counties, the reasons cited for this opposition seem to me to be unconvincing and questionable.
Reasons cited in the letter, in the media and on social networks, indicate concern for potential impacts from idling diesel trucks, impacts to night skies, impacts to adjoining neighborhoods, and increased crime through drugs, prostitution and human trafficking. While the first of these reasons have some merit, the last one seems irrational and without demonstrated proof that I am aware of. I frequent Love’s Travel Stops when I travel and they are pretty much without exception clean, well run, high-end establishments.
We need to understand that U.S. Highway 191 is the only north-south trucking route connecting the southeast and the northwest portion of the western U.S. It is a major truck route used to move the goods we all rely on, and it is the only viable option available to the trucking industry short of using I-25 through Colorado, or I-15 in Utah. Use of those alternatives would add hundreds of dollars in fuel costs for the goods they deliver. So whether we like it or not, use of this trucking route isn’t going to change and we are going to continue to have commercial trucks going through Spanish Valley and downtown Moab. What this truck stop and travel center could help with is in eliminating some of the congestion in the main commercial zone of Moab caused not only by these commercial trucks, but also by large RVs and tour busses.
Currently these types of vehicles have extremely limited places to stop in Moab, either for fuel, food or rest. But they stop there anyway. On any given night nearly every available space where these large commercial trucks can pull off U.S. Highway 191 for rest is used. They routinely stop along the side of the road in Moab for food in front of the stores and businesses where food and supplies are available, often blocking the view of residents and tourists and creating a safety hazard in trying to get back on the highway. The Love’s truck/travel stop about 7 miles south of Moab could eliminate a significant portion of this hazard.
We are aware that there is a small residential neighborhood adjacent to where the truck and travel stop is proposed, and these neighbors would certainly experience some level of impact. But when one chooses to build or buy a home adjacent to or within a commercial zone along a major trucking route, it should not be a huge stretch to assume at some point in the future there could be commercial development in that zone. And Love’s has indicated a willingness to put in appropriate fencing and lighting to eliminate some of the impact from noise and to night skies. Additionally, there has been a commercial business park in this area for at least the past 15 years, and multiple other businesses up and down this stretch of highway for years.
In my opinion, the benefits of giving these trucks and large RVs and buses an alternative to stopping and parking in the Moab business and tourist district is hugely beneficial. And the benefit to valley residents having an alternative source for fuel, basic food items and fast food, will negate their need to add to the congestion by coming into Moab for those items during our busy season.
It’s time for Grand County to get back in its lane so to speak. Let’s focus on Grand County and its residents. Let’s do everything possible to minimize the congestion in Moab. Let San Juan County determine what types of economic development work best for them and allow them the benefits that can be obtained from that development. Let’s frame decisions for Grand County based on what’s best for the majority of citizens in this county, and not just the few vocal citizens and groups who simply oppose truck stops for ideological reasons, or those who took the gamble and built adjacent to a commercial zone.
Lynn Jackson is a 38-year resident of Grand County and a former member of the Grand County Council.