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Wider I-80

Published June 23, 2011 1:01 am

Mass transit is better idea
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Transportation Commission has come up with its priority list for construction and repairs of rural roads. Topping the stack is adding another lane to Interstate 80 from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to Jeremy Ranch. What can the commissioners be thinking?

Those who drive I-80 through Parleys Canyon and have done so for years know that the highway is very seldom crowded, let alone congested. The only exceptions are when road construction is backing up traffic, when an accident blocks a lane or two or when winter weather occasionally slows the flow of traffic. But adding another lane would solve neither of those problems and would certainly, in the short term, make the first much worse.

A great deal of the auto traffic on I-80 in Parleys comprises motorists who live on the Wasatch Back commuting to jobs along the Wasatch Front and service workers who live in Salt Lake City driving up the canyon to jobs in Park City and Heber.

Why not, instead of spending $53 million to entice even more people to commute one person to a car, encourage the Utah Department of Transportation to work with Summit County officials and the Utah Transit Authority to initiate express bus routes and even look into running a rail line to Jeremy Ranch?

Summit County officials have said they would be open to putting a sales-tax measure on the ballot to fund UTA service. But nobody seems to be seriously considering that sensible approach to dealing with growth.

UTA's existing express bus routes, reaching into Utah, Davis and Tooele counties, are popular with riders. Such a route from Salt Lake City to Jeremy Ranch that could hook into the free bus system throughout Park City and Snyderville Basin, and to TRAX and bus routes at the University of Utah, would greatly expand public transit service to the growing number of people who want to live in the mountains and to those who work at mountain resorts, restaurants and hotels but live elsewhere.

Putting more asphalt into Parleys Canyon, thus inviting more single-vehicle traffic, is irresponsible and would only add to the growing pollution in both Salt Lake Valley and the Park City area. Encouraging the use of mass transit would be a more responsible way to meet the needs of an increasing population.

Expanding highways has been shown, over and over, to be a shortsighted approach that doesn't solve traffic problems and instead makes them worse.




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