Commentary: A critical need for improved transportation and planning in southwest Salt Lake County

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) A view of the Mountain View Corridor in Herriman, Utah.

Over 160,000 new people, or 70 percent of the entire population growth of Salt Lake County, have made the southwest communities of West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, Copperton and Bluffdale their home since 2000. About half of the increase is now attributed to move-ins from other states – in large part due to successful recruiting efforts by the state to relocate certain businesses and industries to the region.

With around half of the undeveloped acreage left in the county, this quadrant has seen a flurry of housing activity of all types to help accommodate this growth, increasing the average multifamily housing to approximately 30 percent to 40 percent or more of all housing stock in our communities. These levels are on par or greater than other areas of the county.

With the rapid growth in this part of the county, moving folks around is a challenge. Here are some interesting facts that affect the transportation issues in the southwest quadrant of the Salt Lake Valley:

  • There are 12 driving miles between I-15 and the western parts of Herriman, South Jordan and West Jordan, compared to just 6 miles from I-15 to Wasatch Boulevard on the county’s east side. This is twice the distance with no freeway-style east-west connectors comparable to I-215.

  • The 2040 traffic count projections for the southwest communities are exponentially higher than today, with some major intersections already in failure status.

  • Based on 2040 projections, Mountain View Corridor, which didn’t even exist in 2010, is projected to have as many cars traveling on it as I-15 did in 2010 (more than 150,000). Bangerter Highway has the same traffic projections. This means that between Bangerter Highway and Mountain View Corridor there will be the equivalent of two I-15s running through the southwest part of the valley.

  • There is a significant lack of public transportation in the southwest communities.

As we continue to work with the Legislature, Salt Lake County and the development community to address housing needs, we must also continue to place high priority on the critical transportation and other infrastructure needs our cities are experiencing. Ask any resident in the area, or drive through the quadrant during peak hours, and you will hear about the infrastructure challenge to keep up with our rapid expansion. The southwest communities are working to bring more jobs to the area to decrease the need for residents to commute to other areas in an effort to increase air quality and decrease traffic impacts.

As representatives of our respective cities, we are working together to understand the collective impact of our planning decisions. We want to think regionally and act locally, and we support legislation that encourages wise comprehensive planning measures, while still allowing cities the flexibility to determine the way we grow.

As a group, we are working to secure funding ($250,000) for a first-ever comprehensive visioning study for this part of the valley. The study will make recommendations on how to better integrate our networks – roadway, active transportation, and transit. Salt Lake County has already awarded the effort with $100,000, with an application for an additional $125,000 from the Wasatch Front Regional Council, now pending. Cities are also contributing a combined $25,000. This is a critical step and we appreciate the support of Salt Lake County, and others, with this process.

As southwest communities, our focus is on sustainability. We are meeting weekly with our legislators and receiving regular input from others, including the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Transit Authority. This collaboration is invaluable as we work to explore solutions to our transportation needs, including future funding of Mountain View Corridor and finishing the conversion of Bangerter Highway to a full freeway.

Given the wide geography of the southwest area, the critical level of traffic counts in this region and our significant areas that lack interstate connectivity, we implore the state, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake County and others to continue to work with us and invest in the requisite infrastructure for current and future demand levels in this rapidly expanding area of the Wasatch Front.

Submitted by Bluffdale Mayor Derk Timothy, Copperton Mayor Sean Clayton, Herriman Mayor Pro Tempore Jared Henderson, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey and West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding.