Utah needs to be more aggressive in expanding, maintaining and reconstructing its highway system in order to preserve the quality of life, Gov. Norm Bangerter says.
"Failing to keep up our highway needs could have far-reaching effects beyond the borders of Utah. Tourism, manufacturing and interstate commerce all need transportation to grow," Bangerter told members of the Delta Nu Alpha Transportation Fraternity Friday.The governor and Mayor Joseph Jenkins were on hand at the Fraternity's Central Utah Chapter "Traffic Roundup" to celebrate National Transportation Week.
Both men presented the group with proclamations declaring May 15-21 as National Transportation Week to honor both the transportation industry and those people involved in keeping the nations' planes, trains, trucks and buses running year-round.
"We are privileged to live the American dream. With the highway system we can get in our cars and go anywhere," Bangerter said, and with a smile added, "unless it's Provo Canyon. Transportation is indeed the lifeline of America."
The I-15 reconstruction project is almost complete, but new highways are still needed to improve the system, he said.
"With Utah's population growth we are not permitted to be complacent. Children are flooding the education system and soon they will be licensed drivers and will increase traffic on highways."
Government officials must be committed to continue funding the highway system, the governor said. Trust funds set aside to improve the country should not be frozen or diverted to other programs. They are needed for highways.
"I am committed to oppose increases in gas tax to decrease the federal deficit." He added that "the attempt by Eastern states to shift highway money to East states - based on population size instead of highway miles - would be detrimental to Utah. We need highway dollars just as anywhere else. We have to have the opportunity to grow and attract new development, otherwise we will be choked off."
I-15 transportation studies show that it has more vehicles per hour per lane than I-405 in Los Angeles, Bangerter said. In Salt Lake, 2,119 vehicles travel the freeway in an hour compared to 2,090 in Los Angeles.
By the year 2010, more than 425,000 will travel I-15 daily, he said. That is a 70 percent increase. Delays in rush hour would be two hours instead of one. Bangerter said these figures show that it is necessary to maintain the highway system.
"We have to look at the mechanisms to fund the improvements," he said. I-15 improvements in Salt Lake County alone were at $500 million.
"It isn't only education - the highway system continues to challenge us," he said. "We hope to provide the leadership to meet those needs."
Jenkins said, "We look for transportation to serve all our needs. We produce more goods than any other country and are probably the largest manufacturer. We are a nation of consumers probably because of all the goods that are produced but it doesn't make any difference unless we have a system to transport goods to consumers."