As Utah grows, our transit system needs to grow with it. During the last two decades, I’ve watched the I-15 corridor between Ogden and Provo morph into a major technology hub. When I was a college student in the mid-’90s, Lehi was surrounded by agricultural fields as far as the eye could see.
Today, companies like Adobe, Vivint, Ancestry, Domo, Entrata and many others are building offices along our “Silicon Slopes,” bringing jobs, venture capital, tax revenue and opportunity to the state. Along with these benefits, this growth also has significant implications for our quality of life.
For those of us who live and work here, we know and feel these repercussions all too well — growing congestion, increased traffic, bike and pedestrian accidents as well as worsening air quality to name a few. We need meaningful ways to address these challenges today and into the future. Smart development and investments in more sustainable transportation options like light rail and bike lanes are critical to help address these challenges and to effectively connect Utah across the Wasatch Front.
According to Envision Utah, the number of miles traveled by cars in the greater Salt Lake City area is expected to double by 2050, meaning more cars on the road, more congestion and even worse air. Even the introduction and proliferation of autonomous and electric vehicles on our roadways will not be enough to reduce traffic, make our roads safer and improve air quality in the years ahead. We need long-term solutions that take cars off the road and pollutants out of the air.
Extending existing TRAX lines, such as the Blue Line, from Draper Town Center south through the Point of the Mountain and Lehi would have numerous benefits for local communities. Just look at the impact that the TRAX and FrontRunner rail lines have had in recent years – 1,300 new jobs that generated more than $66 million in income and $227 million in business sales annually across Utah, according to a 2015 Economic Development Research Group Report.
Extending TRAX lines south along the I-15 corridor would have a significant impact on not only the local economy but also arguably the state’s most pressing quality of life issue — poor air quality. Salt Lake City suffers from some of the worst inversions in the country, ranking number one in the nation for the worst air quality on many winter days, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A study by the University of Utah, UTA and UDOT found that the creation of the University TRAX line reduced traffic in downtown Salt Lake City by an estimated 9,300 cars each day. Imagine how many cars could be removed from our roads if a TRAX line ran parallel to I-15 from Salt Lake City through growing areas like Sandy, Draper and Lehi, potentially removing thousands of cars and millions of pounds of pollutants from the roads every day.
A better public transportation system will also help retain and attract talent to the Wasatch Front. There are more than 15,000 tech jobs in Utah that remain unfilled and that number is growing. Adobe currently employs more than 1,200 people in its Lehi facility, and that number is going to more than double in the years ahead once a new $90 million building is constructed that will house as many as 1,260 additional employees.
We need new infrastructure and better air so that our talented engineers, computer programmers, product managers, digital marketers, MBAs, accountants, legal professionals and so many more who graduate from Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Utah State University and our other local institutions find the job of their dreams here in Utah and don’t feel compelled to move to other locations due to quality of life concerns.
Adobe and the Utah tech community strongly support sustainable transportation options and finding new ways to improve this beautiful and innovative place we call home. We understand that we are stewards in our community – a responsibility that we take very seriously. To make Utah the best place in the country to live and work, we ask that you join us and support the development of new public transportation options along the Wasatch Front.
Wade Sherman is the site manager of Adobe’s Lehi facility and vice president of the Adobe Experience Cloud Legal Group.