This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah County leaders are proposing some bold and controversial transportation projects to help handle rapid growth that is projected to increase its population to 1 million people by 2040, up by 75 percent.
That includes studying building a bridge across Utah Lake, adding a new freeway along the west side of that lake, and soon placing a freeway between Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs.
The Mountainland Association of Governments a planning organization for local governments in Utah County has released a proposed once-every-four-years update of transportation plans, called "TransPlan40," that also has some big ideas for mass transit through 2040.
That includes extending the Utah Transit Authority's TRAX line from Draper to Lehi and maybe Orem (and studying possibly stretching it all the way to Spanish Fork), extending the FrontRunner commuter train from Provo to Payson, and building several new "bus rapid transit" (BRT) routes, sort of TRAX on rubber wheels.
"We estimate our population growing to over 1 million in 2040. So Utah County will be the same size [in 25 years] as Salt Lake County is today," said Shawn Seager, director of regional planning for Mountainland.
"When you think about all the assets that Salt Lake County has today, starting on the east side with I-215, then I-15, I-215/West, Bangerter Highway and Mountain View [Corridor highway]," he said, "Utah County has just one north-south facility, I-15. So we're looking at some pretty big capacity projects."
Within 10 years, that includes reconstructing and widening parts of Interstate 15 in Lehi, and "adding a freeway facility on State Road 73 from Saratoga Springs west to Eagle Mountain," Seager said. SR-73 is currently just one lane in each direction in some spots.
Also within the first decade of the plan, officials hope to extend the Mountain View Corridor highway from the Salt Lake County line to SR-73. At first, it will include just the frontage roads for what will be a future freeway.
But plans call for studying extending that freeway down the entire west side of Utah Lake as a possible I-15 bypass. Seager said it has been discussed for years as a way to relieve congestion in the rest of the county by diverting truck traffic going straight through the state to the route west of the lake.
The plan also calls for study of a bridge across Utah Lake between Saratoga Springs and Provo/Orem, which Seager says has been discussed for years to connect high-growth areas west of the lake with the Provo area.
The plan notes that unless more Utah County drivers switch to transit, continued reliance on cars amid rapid growth would mean "more costly corridors such as a bridge over Utah Lake or raised express lanes down the middle of I-15 would need to be studied."
Environmentalists have attacked any plans for a Utah Lake bridge as harmful to the lake's environment and a potential enabler of urban sprawl on the west shore.
For mass transit, the plan calls for extending TRAX light rail from Draper to Lehi by 2040 and proposes pushing it as far as Orem if funding become available. It suggests studying taking it as far as Spanish Fork eventually.
Extending FrontRunner commuter rail from Provo to Payson between 2025 and 2034 is also included in the draft plan.
Also proposed are several new bus rapid transit or express bus lines, including one between American Fork and Eagle Mountain, and two on State Street from American Fork to Orem and from Provo to Springville.
It notes that some BRT lines could be converted into TRAX lines eventually, including the American Fork-Eagle Mountain line, and one now under construction between Provo and Orem.
The draft plan is available online at mountainland.org. A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss it April 29 at 6 p.m. at Mountainland's offices, 586 E. 800 North in Orem.
The agency is also accepting public comment on the plan through May 4 either through its website, or by email to email@example.com.