If you’re one of the estimated 15,000-plus local people who commute to the east every morning for work, and west every evening to come home, there’s a public meeting next week you won’t want to miss.
You especially don’t want to miss it if you’re frustrated with your work commute because of bumper-to-bumper traffic, and frequent and inconvenient delays caused by accidents, road construction, and a lack of detour options to reach the Wasatch Front from Tooele Valley.
As reported in last Thursday’s edition, Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, has organized a public information meeting on commuter congestion for 6 p.m. on Feb. 6 at Stansbury High School. Scheduled to attend are Carlos Braceras, director of the Utah Department of Transportation, and UDOT Region 2 Director Bryan Adams.
Commuter congestion between Tooele and Salt Lake valleys is no stranger to Braceras. If you recall, he posted an online video a year ago apologizing to Tooele County for an evening commute on Jan. 30 that went badly for thousands of commuters trying to get home on Interstate 80 and state Route 201. The culprit was road repair at exit 99 at Lake Point that took longer than expected, and UDOT failing to, as Braceras said, do a better job of keeping commuters “informed of what was going on.”
At the Feb. 6 meeting, Braceras and Adams reportedly will give a presentation on traffic flows in Tooele Valley. A key part of the presentation is expected to be the Midvalley Highway, the first phase of which is scheduled to begin construction next year, and a possible extension to SR-201 to lessen traffic in Lake Point.
What makes the Feb. 6 meeting a do-not-miss event are these two key talking points: Morning and evening commuter congestion between Tooele and Salt Lake valleys is getting worse, and will UDOT’s efforts to reduce congestion be in alignment with Tooele County’s new General Plan?
The publicly developed plan, which was adopted by the County Commission in June 2016, has a transportation component that includes building the Midvalley Highway. But the plan’s consultants believe Midvalley alone won’t alleviate congestion as Tooele Valley’s population increases.
The plan recommends three alternate routes: Extending Midvalley Highway to north of Interstate 80, extending SR-201 to Saddleback Boulevard in Lake Point, and developing Middle Canyon Road to Herriman in Salt Lake Valley.
According to the plan, Tooele Valley’s population is projected to hit 71,000 by 2020 and over 91,000 by 2030. The plan’s consultants also project Tooele Valley’s population will near 120,000 in 25 years. Given the county’s current population of 67,000 and the severity of commuter congestion today, consultants are probably right Midvalley won’t handle it all.
Which means now is the time to begin or continue important dialogue on creating alternative routes and options for the near and distant future.
Nelson is commended to arrange the Feb. 6 public meeting. May it produce a watershed of information, understanding and a bigger commitment to action. And may the meeting also see a big turnout of citizens who want to take part in the process.