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Traffic congestion will be a major challenge in planning new development on state-owned acreage at Utah's Point of the Mountain, state lawmakers heard Wednesday.
The Utah State Prison site and adjoining undeveloped land in Draper represent a significant gap in road and transit capacity along Utah's high-tech Silicon Slopes.
And with Salt Lake County's population expected to reach 1.5 million and Utah County's 1.2 million by 2050, land at and adjacent to the site of the soon-to-be-moved prison will become a "bottleneck" for north-south traffic, warned Robert Grow, president and CEO of Envision Utah, recently hired to study the area.
Traffic slowdowns already are a problem there.
Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, and a member of the Legislature's Interim Transportation Committee, urged Envision Utah to accelerate its recommendations for new roads, highways and public-transit routes through the Point of the Mountain, given the lead time needed to get those projects built.
"It's important we start formulating that plan quickly," Van Tassell said Wednesday. "There just aren't enough rights of way through that area to get us taken care of."
His comments came as members of the Point of the Mountain Development Commission updated lawmakers on their fledgling efforts to write a plan for the 700-acre site in anticipation of the prison's relocation to land west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Top legislators, city officials and business leaders believe the property under the current prison and an estimated 20,000 privately owned acres nearby represent a multibillion-dollar development opportunity.
The commission is creating a land-use blueprint, and earlier this month hired Envision Utah as its lead consultant. Working with eight other consulting firms, the planning agency will identify what roads, water lines, utilities and other municipal services the area will need as well as how to pay for them.
The site's worsening problems with road access have already jumped to the forefront of development challenges, Grow said.
Van Tassell joked that he would almost rather drive via Heber City to get to Utah County from Salt Lake City, instead of braving the stop-and-go traffic jams on Interstate 15 at the Point of the Mountain.
"Thanks for rubbing salt in the wound," remarked Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi.
Grow said that state transportation officials had shown foresight in funding segments of the Mountain View Corridor freeway and FrontRunner and TRAX lines through the two-mile wide gap.
But, the Envision Utah president added, with 22 office buildings currently under construction along the Silicon Slopes and years of dramatic employment expansion in the region, "this area has gotten out ahead of us a little because the growth has been faster than anyone projected and we hope it will continue."
The commission is scheduled to report to lawmakers regularly on its progress. Grow said Envision Utah expected to present a final "actionable plan" on land use and transportation by fall 2017.