SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) Experts on transportation, water and power gathered at the Salt Lake Chamber Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on the state’s future.
They are estimating that $60 billion will have to be spent on Utah’s infrastructure over the next 20 years to meet the needs of the booming population. They estimate the state will have 7 million people by 2060.
Transportation is top of the list. Driving from Weber and Davis Counties on the north and from Utah County on the south is already a test of endurance during rush hour.
So you would think that a massive highway building project would be the answer. Not so, say UDOT officials. They are predicting that driverless cars and sophisticated computer systems will ease congestion without a building binge.
Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation is predicting those changes in the next few years.
“Vehicles will be communicating with traffic signals,” he says. “But you’re also going to be communicating with bridge decks. So when the bridge decks start to freeze, those vehicles that are approaching it will know that it is actually taking place. And they’ll be communicating with the other vehicles on the road.”
He says it won’t be exactly like the Jetsons, but it will be a very sophisticated approach to highway traffic and should significantly cut down on deaths.
Braceras is also predicting a huge increase in electric vehicles and that has Rocky Mountain Power already investing millions to deal with that.
The power company’s vice president, Chad Teply says his company will be “installing charging infrastructure along the interstate corridor across Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Up to 1,500 miles of charging infrastructure.”
And what about that precious resource we can’t live without? Water. Companies or government entities that disburse water to residents will have to spend millions to maintain or rebuild aging pipelines that frequently fail all over the state.
But there is a prediction that water usage will continue to decrease. Right now two-thirds of the H2O we use goes to outside things like watering our lawns.
Tage Flint, CEO of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District says the younger generation will save us, because they don’t put the same value on large, green lawns as their parents do.
“The millennials think, as we show them different yard setups with their homes, that about 50% turf and 50% something else like mulches or plants, is the most aesthetically pleasing to them.”
Flint says they will be more comfortable in smaller homes with smaller yards or living in condos. All of those will help cut down on water usage.
Who will pay for this huge and apparently necessary investment in infrastructure? We all will through a combination of sales, gas and property taxes and increased user fees.
Utah has been on top of most national surveys as a great place to do business and the Salt Lake Chamber is promoting discussions like this to make sure the state stays on top.
Most of these experts agree that Utah faces huge challenges with our population growth, but they believe we are meeting them head on and building a positive future.