SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – The population boom in Utah has caused several issues that organizations, cities, and the state are trying to get ahead of. Transportation is where many drivers have noticed a difference. Although experts note step to alleviate it are about more than roads and transit.
Envision Utah is an organization which analyzes data and shows the impact certain decisions can have on the region. Chief Operating Officer Ari Bruening said Utah is in a better position than most major cities because they still have room to expand transportation infrastructure.
“If you plan ahead it’s a lot easier to do some of these transportation improvements that we need to do whether it’s rail or roads,” said Bruening.
A major success seen in planning has come from neighborhood design. By ditching the old neighborhood model with more cul-de-sacs, and connecting streets. Congestion is reduced.
“It’s important that those smaller roads also connect, and that we do the grid system that Brigham Young started,” said Bruening. “Because otherwise, it dumps all the traffic on to those big roads and then they get congested.”
Another traffic reducer has been the addition of density to certain areas. By building more homes and businesses closer together people tend to walk more.
Reid Ewing is a Professor of Planning at the University of Utah. He notes that when density creates more walking and bike riding it also reduces air pollution.
“The problems of air quality are about half related to motor vehicle use and motor vehicle use is related to sprawl,” said Ewing.
Heavy density doesn’t work everywhere. Some communities in recent months have pushed back on those types of developments.
Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs said they’re not against density, but notes there isn’t the infrastructure in place to handle extreme growth. He notes the TRAX line stops in South Jordan, and there’s worry it could have a negative impact.
“Does it make a lot of sense to build a ton of density there when you’re just going to have to hop in a car or end up traveling somehow down to where the workforce service is.”
Studies have shown that building density near rail or transit lines can reduce traffic up to 50 percent.
“We need to develop in the right way so that jobs and housing are closer together and people don’t have to travel as far,” said Bruening.
Several road projects are underway to expand highways, but there are also plans for rail expansion if it gets funding.