SANDY — City leaders from southwest Salt Lake County communities have a shared alpha concern when it comes to how they're going to navigate the current and expected explosive growth in their areas — transportation and transit infrastructure.
Their collective mantra also mirrors findings of the Point of the Mountain Development Commission, which recently completed a yearslong study that determined the optimum path forward — one that protects so-called quality of life issues amid the expanding population — comes with a premium price tag, including an estimated $11.4 billion in state and local transportation and transit infrastructure costs.
Current projections reflect Utah will add some 3 million new residents in the next 50 years.
Herriman City Councilwoman Nicole Martin said communities like hers were relying on responsible decision-making about, and investments in, critical transportation and transit infrastructure. Martin noted without thoughtful planning, issues that are already becoming prominent, like congestion, will only get worse.
"The congestion that we have … is becoming a serious problem," Martin said. "When we’re talking about the need to pile in housing to accommodate the growth, the backbone to support that growth is infrastructure and roads. And it's a problem."
Martin's comments came at a panel discussion Tuesday with Draper Mayor Troy Walker, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and Bluffdale Economic Development Director Grant Crowell at the Salt Lake Board of Realtors headquarters. The municipal leaders, speaking to a crowd of about 100 real estate professionals, weighed in on growth issues including expected impacts after the Utah State Prison vacates its 700-acre property in a couple of years.
Walker is on the boards of both the Point of the Mountain Development Commission and the recently convened Point of the Mountain State Land Authority, an 11-member body tasked with overseeing the redevelopment of the state-owned property.
The current planning scenario for the prison plot calls for a mix of residential, office, retail and light-industrial uses, as well as robust, new public transit connections including light rail and bus rapid transit. The hoped-for anchor for the site would be a world-class research/educational facility that, according to a report released last January by the development commission, could become a magnet for talent and further investment.
A concept for the site created in 2014 by Walker's staff envisioned 8 million square feet of office space, 1.1 million square feet of commercial space, 6.6 million square feet of mixed use, and over 5,000 units of high- and medium-density housing. Walker told the Deseret News he anticipates the biggest obstacle with the property will be how to efficiently get new employees and residents in and out of the area.
"I think the challenge is how do we move that many people," Walker said. "We've got all these people who will be commuting in and out of the area whether they work or live there. How do we do that in a way where we still get the benefits but mitigate the impacts?"
The area around the current prison site has become highly attractive to Utah's booming tech sector, including high-flying tech education innovator Pluralsight, which broke ground on a new headquarterslast September just across I-15 from the prison. The company, which is currently located in Farmington, is developing a 30-acre parcel beginning with construction of a 350,000-square-foot facility with plans in place to build its workforce up to 2,400 employees.
Walker said that getting transit, including light rail, to the prison site will be one of the keys to a successful redevelopment effort. He noted that a study is currently underway exploring the options for southern extensions to either the TRAX Blue Line, which currently terminates at Draper Town Center, or the Red Line, which ends at Daybreak.
"What we’re looking for is access to transit," Walker said. "UTA's goal is ridership. As far as which line, I don’t care one way or another. I want it to be effective and I want it to get constructed."
Staggs said that communities in Salt Lake County's southwest sector, in spite of some discussions during the last legislative session that may have questioned whether the area was prime for growth, have accounted for 70 percent of the county's population growth since 2000. He noted he shared the concerns of other speakers about infrastructure development not keeping pace with that growth and saw the upcoming prison redevelopment as further exacerbating the issues.
"The prison relocation, that is going to impact us," Staggs said. "Traffic, infrastructure … we are in very close proximity."6 comments on this story
Although the new Point of the Mountain State Land Authority convened for the first time last June, little has happened since that time. Walker said he was attending a meeting later on Tuesday at which the final candidates for the position of executive director of the authority would be interviewed. He said he was anxious for that hiring decision to be finalized and was looking forward to moving the work forward, noting "I'm looking at 2021 and thinking, we've got to get to work on this."