April 21, 2011 | UBET to Wasatch Front Regional Council | RTP, Technical Report 50
UTAHNS FOR BETTER TRANSPORTATION
218 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
801 355-7085 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Utahns for Better Transportation
FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on and make recommendations to the Draft 2011-2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). We are pleased to see that the goals and objectives of the RTP support a balanced approach leading to shared solutions to our future mobility needs. This shift toward a balanced approach is gratifying as it demonstrates an acknowledgement of the challenges to our quality of life from automobile congestion, air pollution, and loss of valuable open spaces if we continue our auto-oriented development patterns and transportation investments.
The underpinning vision for the 2040 RTP, the Wasatch Choice for 2040, clearly identifies the challenges we face and the benefits we would gain from a balanced, integrated transportation land-use plan for growth and development in our region. TheWasatch Choice specifically calls attention to three major concerns that could adversely affect our quality of life if we continue past development patterns:
- Transportation – “The number of miles we drive and traffic delay will increase from 49 million miles driven per day now to 96 million in 2040.”
- Air Quality – “Continuing current trends will lead to increased driving which will degrade air quality and threaten our health and economic prosperity.”
- Development and Infrastructure – “In Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties, we will develop nearly 300 additional square miles of land by 2040.”
The Wasatch Choice for 2040 vision also highlights the benefits of being smarter in how we grow. The benefits of a quality growth strategy include:
- Housing and Transportation Choices – Reducing region-wide traffic congestion by 18 percent and providing more choices in how we live, work, play and travel.
- Cleaner Air and Water – Improves air quality for our health and economic growth and uses less water resources and saves valuable farms and open space.
- Enhanced Economic Development – Saves billions of dollars on infrastructure.
- Safe and Beautiful Neighborhoods – Maintaining character of existing neighborhoods by accommodating much new growth in centers near regional transportation systems.
The 2040 RTP begins with forward-looking goals and objectives that will make tomorrow better than today. Two are worth highlighting: Goal #1: “Provide a balanced, interconnected transportation system with a range of convenient, efficient and economical choices”; and, Objective #4: “Reduce the rate of growth in vehicle miles of travel to the rate of growth in population.” We would add “to no greater than” growth in population.
Although reducing the rate of growth of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) is stated as an objective in the 2040 RTP, the plan does not meet this objective. Table 8-13 Goals and Performance Measures shows the daily VMT per capita increasing with or without the RTP in 2040. Population is predicted to grow from approximately 2 million in the Wasatch Front today, to 3.5 million in 2040, a 75 percent increase. The RTP plan shows that VMT is predicted to grow from roughly 49 million miles for daily regional automobile and truck travel today, to roughly 96 million miles per day in 2040, a 95 percent increase, even with the implementation of the RTP plan. We certainly don’t want to see VMT grow faster than the population. A more balanced travel mode share in our future (transit, walk, bike, automobiles) and a more multi-modal approach to our roadway system, emphasizing safety and efficient operation for all modes, will provide a more sustainable system as we move into the future.
Following are several recommendations for additions to the 2040 RTP. They are all meant to help complement the important goals set out in the RTP and the Wasatch Choice for 2040.
1. Busways and Bikeways
While the past decade has seen a remarkable investment in a regional rail system along the Wasatch Front, most new transit capacity expansion in the 2040 RTP is based on enhanced bus and bus rapid transit in dedicated right-of-ways. Roadway improvements need to be designed to provide effective configurations for enhanced bus and bus rapid transit. Dedicated bikeways as well as adequate shoulders or bike paths on roadways should be designed for safe bicycling and access to all transit stations.
As the RTP 2040 notes in the Multi Modal Approach to Roadway Investments (Section 7.14) the US Department of Transportation policy statements and code regulations require consideration and inclusion of walking, biking and transit into transportation plans and project development. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) have worked cooperatively over the past decade to implement a more balanced transportation investment program. With the RTP projects relying heavily on busways it is critical that all roadway improvement projects—from traffic calming on local residential streets to creating boulevards or expressways—include an early and ongoing review of multi modal opportunities in planning, designing and implementing changes to our roadways.
2. Sequencing and Phasing
Sequencing of transportation projects to create a better balance between auto, transit, walk, and bike trips should be studied to recommend the most effective and cost-efficient way to meet future travel needs, reduce the rate of growth of VMT, and improve air quality.
3. Rail Transit on 5600 West in Salt Lake County
The Mountain View Corridor Record of Decision (MVC-ROD) includes implementation of a phased approach in Salt Lake County that culminates (Transit Phase 3) in a rail transit system along the entire length of 5600 West extending from Salt Lake International Airport (north) to Herriman (south). This rail investment would complete a transit loop on the west side of Salt Lake County, providing a viable transit option to residents. The MVC-ROD Transit Phase 3 should be included in the RTP 2040 and implemented sooner rather than later. Optimal sequencing of transportation investments along with land use initiatives will be critical to achieve a balanced transportation system for our future.
4. Freeways, Expressways, Boulevards and Parkways
Investments in new freeways is the largest budget item in the 2040 RTP. Do we really want to accommodate an increase in VMT greater than population growth? Do we want or need 6, 8, or 10-lane freeways every three miles running north-south on the west side of Salt Lake County (1-15, I-215, Bangerter, Mountain View Corridor)? Freeways often divide communities and damage property values. Using a multi-modal approach and context sensitive design strategies will help ensure a safe and efficient roadway network for local and regional travel. The Legacy Parkway, with features including a continuous separated bikeway and nature preserve, and a ban on semi trucks, has received strong public and official approval. We should build on its success as a civilized roadway.
5. Preservation, Maintenance and Operations
The 2040 RTP Table 6-5 shows almost $9 billion in unmet pavement and bridge preservation needs while Table 6-9 shows that over $20 billion is available for highway capacity improvement. This is putting the cart before the horse. We should prioritize preservation, maintenance and efficiency of our existing infrastructure before we add additional capacity that will require ongoing maintenance and preservation costs.
6. Air Quality
The public health and economic costs of air pollution in Utah are substantial.
Bad air quality events are linked to increased hospitalizations, childhood
asthma, premature birth, stunted lung development, cardiovascular harm and other
serious health concerns. The State’s economy suffers as a result of our poor
air quality as well, with lost worker productivity and loss of new businesses
that choose to locate elsewhere, among other costs.
Because our air quality is currently unacceptable—even without the addition of
any more vehicles—the emissions related to vehicle travel must be substantially
reduced. We are pleased that the Wasatch Choice 2040 vision recognizes the
importance of air quality and includes improvement of air quality as a central
goal. Balanced multi-modal solutions to the transportation challenges facing
the Wasatch Front are a significant improvement over current trends.
We would like to see a continued focus on air quality, as only through focused
effort can this important public health issue see improvement. Specifically,
reduction of VMT is a crucial part of reducing emissions and improving the health of Utah’s inhabitants. Indeed, the 2040 RTP states “In addition, vehicle miles travelled is directly associated with the level of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere” (page 86).
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 2040 RTP. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with WFRC as critical decisions are made that will impact our quality of life along the Wasatch Front well into the future.
Sierra Club, Western Regional Representative
2159 South 700 East Ste. 210
Salt Lake City, Utah 84106
801-467-9294 801-467-9296 fax
Executive Director, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake
PO Box 2655
Salt Lake City, Utah 84110-2655
President, Breathe Utah
PO Box 522435
Salt Lake City, Utah 85152