While cycling to Saltair recently, along the shoreline of Great Salt Lake, I noticed large signs advertising: “Phase 1 Coming Soon For Lease: Class A Bulk Distribution.” What this means is that the building of Salt Lake’s proposed inland port has begun.
Its proponents claim that the port will boost Salt Lake into becoming “The Gateway to the West.” In my study, I have discovered that this claim rests significantly on deception and exaggeration.
For example, I drove past an impressive inland port only a day’s drive from Salt Lake that already exists. Driving west from Phoenix on Route 60, I skirted the boundary of a 700-plus-acre inland port consisting of huge cranes and containment boxes, miles of railroad tracks, trains and train cars and innumerable automobiles, trucks and buses. The air was full of exhaust, smoke and dust.
Salt Lake’s efforts to confront its air pollution crisis run directly opposite the building of an inland port. Proponents claiming the proposed port will be green are promoting a delusion.
Phoenix’s inland port already boasts of being “The Western Hub” for moving cargo, running from Nogales, Mexico, up to Calgary and Edmonton, Canada; and from Los Angeles and California’s Central Valley through America’s Midwest and east coast, via Interstates 8 and 10 (running west to east) and 17 and 19 (running north and south).
The Arizona Department of Highways last year appropriated $150 million to finish the upgrade of routes 60 and 93 to become Interstate 11, connecting Phoenix to Las Vegas. Finally, Phoenix’s inland port boasts of two airports connected by trains and freeways: SkyHarbor International Airport, Phoenix, and the Tucson International Airport.
Interestingly, while reviewing the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development report, “Utah Inland Port – Feasibility Analysis,” (December 2017), I found I was reading a promotional document disguised as an objective analysis. It actually contains lies.
For example, on page 2-17 the report states that, “There are not many examples of inland ports in the U.S.” It is hard to square this claim with the study prepared by the University of Utah’s Policy Institute, “Salt Lake Inland Port Market Assessment” (August 2016).
In the study’s “Summary of Selected Inland Ports,” 13 different inland ports throughout the U.S. are described. For example, it described the Inland Empire Port in the San Bernardino/Riverside/Victorville area of California. The port boasts of handling 65-80% of California’s vast cargo via a sweeping Interstate system, two railroads (the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe), and a cargo-dedicated international airport (the Southern California Logistics Airport). Furthermore, as stated in the summary’s subtitle, it describes only a selective number of existing inland ports.
These are not the only ports in the U.S. For example, the summary omits a description of Phoenix’s inland port, even though, in terms of strategic location and size, Phoenix’s port is every bit as impressive as the Inland Empire Port. Both span 700-plus acres and both are served by Interstate highways, railroads and international airports. Both also suffer from major air pollution, as well as environmental blight.
An article in the Phoenix Business Journal (July 2019), describes a bonanza of new commercial real estate and warehouses in the inland port area. If you drive through the area, and if you have even a touch of aesthetic sensibility about the earth, you will be shocked and pained by what you see – unless the air pollution prevents you from seeing anything. The area is an absolute blight of trucks, railroads, containers, cranes, warehouses and asphalt. Imagine seeing it forever on the shoreline of Great Salt Lake.
I’m convinced that the proposed inland port, if built, will bring nothing but massive environmental degradation to our beautiful city and the Great Salt Lake. But, luckily, it need not happen. The destruction wrought by this nightmare proposal can be stopped, but only if we act now as a responsible community.
On the other hand, there is a telephone number on the large signs along the Great Salt Lake advertising land now for lease to build a “Class A Bulk Distribution” center. If you want to get in on this environmental rape and desecration of Salt Lake for financial gain, call that number.
Robert S. Broadhead, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of sociology, the University of Connecticut. He has lived in Salt Lake City since 2006.