Tackling the Southwest Valley’s traffic woes
Mar 20, 2019 02:56PM
● By Mariden Williams
Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs wants to see residents’ transportation tax dollars used more efficiently. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)
By Mariden Williams | [email protected]
The mayors of West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, Copperton and Bluffdale are organizing a traffic visioning study for the southwest portion of the valley and are working to understand the collective impact of their planning decisions.
“We all hear the issues,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. “We know that traffic times and travel times have really been elongated over the last several years.”
The study will make recommendations on how to better integrate the valley’s various transport networks: roadway, active transportation and public transit—public transit being an area that Staggs has noted as being particularly lacking.
“If you were to look at a map, there’s only one core bus route, UTA 126, that goes down south of South Jordan. That’s it,” said Staggs at a city council meeting on March 5. “All of us as taxpayers are spending this money—sales tax and other pieces that are going to UTA, through UDOT—and we need to continue to be vigilant to make sure that the infrastructure we desperately need here is constructed.”
More than 160,000 new people have moved into West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, Copperton and Bluffdale since 2000, according to a jointly signed statement published by the mayors of those six cities.
Those 160,000 new residents account for 70 percent of the population growth for the entirety of Salt Lake County in that same time frame. But new road infrastructure, the mayors postulate, has not been increasing at nearly the same speed, which has created a veritable transportation crisis.
“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—twice the distance with no adequate east–west connectors comparable to I-215. 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: the equivalent of two I-15s running through the southwest part of the valley,” wrote the mayors.
The six mayors began meeting regularly after last year’s Olympia Hills housing debacle, which, had it actually gone through, would have seen more than 33,000 people crammed into 930 acres of land, essentially creating a city the size of Midvale or Kearns but crammed into a third of the land area of either. The development was ultimately vetoed, but the incident made the mayors realize that if they wanted to keep the valley’s infrastructural woes from worsening even further, it would require some serious teamwork.
The group of mayors is now urging state officials to convert Bangerter Highway into a full freeway, connect the Mountain View Corridor all the way to I-15 and improve east–west connectivity between the I-215 belt route and Bangerter Highway.
“Bangerter is going to take some $500 million to complete, with all of those great separated interchanges,” Stagg said. “And we have moved up the timeline to a certain extent.” Separated interchanges at 12600 South, 10400 South and 6200 South are all slated to be completed in 2020, which should provide some immediate relief to the choking river of cars that is 12600 South today. Also, 2700 West and others should hopefully be completed the year after that.
“When the rest of those interchanges are done, and it becomes a full freeway, we’re going to see noticeable improvement to the transportation corridors that we have,” said Staggs.
There’s one other state bill that the six southwest mayors are watching with worried eyes: Senate Bill 34, which would prod cities into constructing further high-density housing developments in exchange for a bribe of transportation dollars. The mayors don’t see this so much as a tempting bribe as a threat to withhold desperately needed funding if they do not comply with the state’s interference in their city plans.
“Affordable housing proponents ignore the current transportation crisis. They are pushing the public and state policymakers to just add more housing, particularly multifamily housing. Moreover, the state legislature is now entertaining options that would withhold state transportation dollars (your tax monies) to communities that don’t adhere to their top-down planning directives to build higher densities. This is wholly irresponsible, and it would only exacerbate the transportation crisis we are in today,” the mayors wrote. “It literally puts the cart before the horse—and then they’ll take away your horse if you don’t add to the cart!”