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Feds get earful about UDOT's and UTA's transportation planning

Published August 20, 2013 7:01 pm

Review • UTA, UDOT criticized by activist groups.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Federal officials heard an earful Tuesday from groups contending that the Utah Transit Authority and Utah Department of Transportation have forgotten the views of regular people in their planning.

That came as the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration held a public meeting as part of a once-every-four-years review of whether local transportation agencies comply with federal planning rules, and should continue to receive federal funding.

Several citizen groups said the agencies have forgotten the poor, and build projects that lead to urban sprawl to enrich the wealthy.

"I will give them a solid 'A' on how fast they can spend money and how many tracks they can build, and I'll give them an 'F' on how well people can get to those tracks and how convenient it is," Claire Geddes, an activist who has been critical of UTA, said.

She said she is tired of officials saying the new $2.5 billion "Frontlines 2015" projects by UTA to expand light rail and commuter rail were completed two years ahead of schedule and under budget. "I'm not that impressed with that. If you downgrade your bond rating like they did and decimate your bus service, that means a lot to me. They made it a lot more difficult for the poor and elderly to get around."

Tim Funk with the Crossroad Urban Center also was critical.

"We don't do a good job of getting poor people around" with current mass transit, Funk said.

Several groups opposed to the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway complained that project shows poor planning and that UDOT has misguided priorities.

"This highway is unnecessary," said Heather Dove, president of Great Salt Lake Audubon.

She added that modeling by UDOT predicts sections of it will only be used at 40 percent of capacity in 2040 — but said it will devastate wetlands needed for migrating birds.

Lori Kalt, president of Save Farmington, said, "I do believe many of the roads planned will bring urban sprawl" and are designed largely to open up land for more development, including the West Davis Corridor.

Gerald McDonough, said he once worked for UDOT.

Highway planning, he said, "has been used as a tool for development. ... It's merely a method to use federal funds to spread urban blight."

Steve Call, program development team leader for the Federal Highway Administration, said federal officials will use such comments as they interview officials at UDOT, UTA and the Wasatch Front Regional Council this week, and expect to issue a report by October on whether those agencies are complying with federal rules.