Several Salt Lake Valley business, government and political leaders have banded together, hoping to create public agreement on how to avoid potential gridlock along the Wasatch Front.
After a decade of discussing and studying the problem of future traffic congestion, the Utah Transportation Education Foundation wants to take that information and get the public behind a solution."Our concern is that there have been a lot of recommendations made, but no consensus has emerged," foundation member and local commercial developer Kem Gardner said at the organization's initial press conference Thursday.
"If we avoid making critical decisions about our transportation options now, we'll be faced with the same kinds of congestion and pollution problems that are threatening the quality of life of Southern Californians."
The foundation sounds somewhat like a publicity arm for the Utah Transit Authority and other supporters of a proposed $225 million light-rail commuter train and bus system in Salt Lake County:
- Gardner said the foundation favors an integrated transportation system involving expanded highways, buses and a light rail, similar to that proposed by UTA and UDOT.
- One of the foundation's members is UTA General Manager John C. Pingree.
- The foundation's creation comes two months after a group of local mayors and other elected officials formed Area Leaders for Responsible Transportation - the first organized opposition to UTA's light-rail proposal.
But the foundation contends it has no political agenda and hasn't taken sides.
"I'm not opposed to light rail, but I am not prepared to endorse it," said foundation member Michael O. Leavitt, a local insurance executive and former Republican political consultant.
Nor are many Salt Lake Valley mayors. Foundation member John D. Hiskey, manager of West Jordan City, said that city's Mayor Kenneth Miller questions the timing of the current light-rail proposal.
Miller, a member of the transportation group, said he supported Hiskey's appointment to the foundation so he could air West Jordan's views.
In addition to Gardner, Wilson, Pingree, Hiskey and Leavitt, the foundation includes:
Ted L. Wilson, former Salt Lake mayor and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics; Richard J. Goode, managing partner of Coopers & Lybrand; Max A. Farbman, partner in the law firm of Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy; Paul Barber, Utah Power & Light community development manager; Mary Jane C. Due and Douglas S. Foxley, both attorneys; Jeffrey C. Hatch, general manager of KUTV; Robert W. Wood, chairman of Prowswood Management Inc.; and Steven D. Kohlert, senior vice president of Intermountain Health Care.
The foundation, which will seek private donations to finance publicity campaigns, describes itself as a "clearinghouse" of transportation information that will help differing groups reach agreement.