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"I believe we have a world-class highway network. I believe we have a world-class transit network. But I think we can do a lot better integrating the two," along with better facilities for bikes and pedestrians, he says.
"In the past if we did a big project like Mountain View or Legacy Parkway, we put trail systems in. But if we were to go out and do a chip seal on a road or a simple maintenance job, we didn’t think about, ‘Does the community have plans to put in a bike lane here, does the community want to improve pedestrian access here?’ "
UDOT at a glance:
» 1,800 employees.
» Oversees the design, construction and maintenance of Utah’s 6,000-mile system of highways.
» It has four official strategic goals: Preserve roads and bridges, optimize mobility, zero fatalities and strengthen the economy.
» Executive director is adding six new areas of emphasis: integrated transportation, collaboration, education, transparency, quality, and operational excellence.
Braceras says he wants UDOT to constantly ask, "Is there a way to maybe narrow a lane here or put in a little extra pavement and provide for a bike lane that is safer?"
Benefits • Braceras is an avid, lifelong bicyclist, often riding with groups promoting safer cycling. He says that helps him appreciate that designing roads to help cyclists — and pedestrians and mass transit — is an important step toward reducing road congestion and air pollution.
"If a family is not comfortable in walking that last quarter-mile to get to a train, or walking to school because they are worried about safety, they are not going to make that trip. So they are going to start the car — those cold starts are not good for air quality — and they are going to drive a half mile to take the kids to school instead of walking," he says.
"I think for a small investment we can make a big difference."
Critics • Even UDOT critics like Braceras’s ideas, including Steve Erickson, spokesman for the Shared Solution Coalition of community and environmental groups that has been fighting the agency’s plan for the new West Davis Corridor freeway — the northern extension of Legacy Parkway. They say UDOT has too narrowly focused there on moving more cars faster, without giving enough attention to what it would do to urban sprawl, air pollution and wetlands.
"Overall, we can’t disagree with any of his intentions. That’s a positive way to proceed," Erickson said. "But UDOT is a big agency that has done things a certain way for a long time. That’s difficult to turn around and may not be as simple as it sounds."
Erickson said groups such as his will be watching to see if Braceras’ new vision makes much of a difference or is just talk.
Braceras says he knows his plan for a change in culture is making some UDOT employees anxious.
"I think," he adds, "I will be doing my job if I make people a little nervous."
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