Growing Pains: How will Utah support population growth?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – What happens when no one wants density? Utah’s population is growing and it’s causing some strain across the state.

All you have to do is look out of your car window while stuck in rush hour traffic and it’s easy to see how the population growth is impacting our area, but a lot of other infrastructures is feeling the strain.

Several solutions are underway to better handle this growth, but the ideas don’t always get a warm welcome.

The booming economy of Utah has brought praise and investment from around the country, but it’s also bringing a flood of new residents. About half the current growth coming from out of state which is straining a housing market already 54,000 units short of where it needs to be.

“We have a population boom that’s here, and we have a population boom that’s coming. How do we actually support and build our communities that we can absorb the growth.”

The Salt Lake Chamber recently conducted a study which says more density is needed to relieve the problem, but that all communities should take on density to solve it.

In recent months several communities have pushed back against dense housing plans most notably the Olympia Hills Development and the Old Cottonwood Mall site in Holladay.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs says they’re not against density, but the plan would have overloaded a road system that doesn’t have TRAX.

“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,” said Staggs.

Experts are trying to educate residents that density doesn’t only mean apartments, and often is a mix of housing options. Depending on where the density goes, it can help relieve other issues.

“If you do the right kind of development well designed near a rail station the research shows your can reduce driving by as much as 50 percent,” said Ari Bruening COO of Envision Utah.

Envision Utah has been studying the state’s growth for more than 20 years and they give projections depending on what people want. For instance, growth is speeding up in Utah County, and predicting where it’s going can help planners get ahead of it.

“The growth patterns are shifting, and we need to watch those trends and make sure we’re putting infrastructure where we really need it,” said Robert Grow, CEO of Envision Utah.

While much of the focus is on relieving the problems of the Wasatch Front, Grow says we need to remember rural parts of the state which also face challenges.

“Support what they already have, grow what they already have, but in addition as the new economy continues to develop they get their share.”

Besides traffic and housing, the state is also facing issues with water supply, agriculture, education, and energy.
Grow says the important thing now is for residents to stay involved and become informed on the growth issues because they will be helping shape the policy for decades to come.

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