These phrases of aggravation have become too familiar to 70 percent of Utah's population caught in the commuter traffic at the heart of Salt Lake Valley. John Pingree, Utah Transit Authority general manager, offers light-rail transit as an alternative to a transportation system he contends has exceeded its service life and must be rebuilt.
Speaking at the Hinckley Institute Tuesday, Pingree said the quality of life along the Wasatch Front will be determined, in part, by the quality of transit Utahns plan.Such traffic jams not only takes its toll on commuters psychologically, it wastes 55,000 hours of commuters' time each day as 250,000 people travel north and south through the center of Salt Lake County.
Within the next 15 to 20 years, the population along I-15/State Street corridor is expected to double. A 1984 study by engineers, planners and transportation officials concluded that two alternatives must be developed: an addition of two lanes in each direction to I-15 through the major portions of the corridor and a light-rail system running between Salt Lake City and Sandy, along with the necessary expansion of east-west bus service to feed the north-south light-rail alignment.
Light-rail transit, LRT, is an undated, efficient technology based upon a mode of public transportation that has been "tried and true" in northern Utah - the electric trolley.
The modern rail cars are sleek and comfortable; clean, quiet and cost-effective, said Pingree.
A LRT system has a maximum estimated passenger capacity equal to 3 to 5 lanes of average freeway traffic on an hour-per-hour basis.
Many cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Japan have turned to LRT to improve urban commuter mobility.
In September 1986, a 15-mile LRT system was opened in the Portland area. Initial ridership was projected at 15,000 a day. The Oregon system currently transports an average of 18,000 daily passengers.
Since LRT ensures access and reliability, it attracts business and brings community residents closer to jobs and links homes with shopping, schools and entertainment, said Pingree.
Two possible routes for the LRT are: along the existing Union Pacific Railroad right of way east of I-15 and within sections of State and Main streets.
Cost of building a LRT is estimated at $225 million, including a $75 million for expanded east-west feeder bus service.
"Rail transit is like having a second car for an entire region's residents but without the stress of vehicle breakdowns, traffic tie-ups parking and exhaust pollution," said Pingree.