As the Saratoga Springs continues to grow, one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is, “Are we planning ahead for roads and utilities?”
The overwhelming answer is a resounding yes!
During 2019, the city worked with land owners and developers to install more than 10 miles of culinary water lines, seven miles of secondary water lines, 13 miles of sewer lines, eight miles of storm drains and three miles of city maintained roads, not including the miles of UDOT and HOA roads put into place.
In addition, Saratoga Springs received two awards this year in recognition of our work in the implementation of our secondary water meters and the new fixed network meter read system. The fixed network meter read system is an array of radio towers throughout the City that provides real-time water meter reads and also identify when a leak is occurring on the customer side of the meter. This is a huge savings on time and resources, because city staff no longer have to check meters by hand or by driving up and down every road every month.
Furthermore, the city will soon be launching a new customer portal, in which residents and businesses can access their water usage in real time. The fixed network was funded in part through a grant from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
These types of projects take time to implement and larger infrastructure projects can require complex negotiations with land owners and developers, which start much further in advance than an official application to the city and are presented at City Council and planning commission meetings.
Often, residents’ schedules do not allow them to attend every public meeting the city has towards these efforts and can sometimes lead to feeling frustrated as you are in traffic or have low water pressure. As such, you are given the false impression that nothing is being done by the city or state to address all of the growth we are experiencing. Please know that city staff, the City Council and myself all share your frustration in how long these processes and projects take. However, please be assured that something is most certainly being done to plan ahead and address all of the growth. Many of our neighboring cities along the Wasatch Front are dealing with the very same issues of growth as we are.
To help you better understand why these processes take so long, I have highlighted three key parts that demonstrate a portion of all that goes on in the background to make these projects a reality:
1. Obtaining right-of-way from property owners
One important thing to understand is that the city cannot legally deny or forcibly obtain right-of-way from property owners, except in extreme circumstances. We must and will continue to honor the rights of property owners.
In working to create roadways and lay utilities, one of the first steps is working with existing properties owners to either purchase the necessary right-of-way to build infrastructure or obtain an allowed easement via a formal agreement. Our city is known for obtaining right-of-way far ahead of schedule. However, these negotiations often take months or even years to finalize.
As such, the city of Saratoga Springs has city code that ensures a developer-initiated approach to providing the necessary infrastructure for the growth caused by development. In other words, when a home and commercial developer wants to build in Saratoga Springs, we have certain requirements in place to ensure that right-of-way and easements are obtained to build the necessary infrastructure.
However, not all infrastructure projects are developer driven. For example, the city has been working with the UDOT and the Mountainland Association of Governments to extend the Mountain View Corridor further south along the base of Lake Mountain to provide another roadway in the city that provides a north and south thoroughfare. Similar to 2100 North in Lehi, this will begin as frontage roads and will be known as Foothill Boulevard. The city is now currently working with multiple private, state and federal property owners to obtain the needed right-of-way through purchase or land swap agreements.
2. Obtaining the needed funding
In addition to the needed for funding to build a new roadway like Foothill Boulevard, projects of this scale require environmental studies, traffic studies, engineering studies, all of which require more funding. Currently, the city is gearing up apply for MAG funding, which is allocated from the State of Utah for projects such as these, to further extend Foothill Boulevard south.
3. Implementing projects
After doing what it takes to obtain the necessary right-of-way and funding the city must go through a process of contracting the work or coordinating with entities, such as UDOT, to ensure that the projects are moving forward. For example, Redwood Road had been near or at its maximum capacity for several years during hours of peak traffic. As such, the city worked with UDOT several years ago to demonstrate our dramatic growth and to push them to implement the Redwood Road widening project on a faster time line. As a result, this two-year widening project is now finally coming to a finish.
Had the city not planned ahead and proactively worked with UDOT, this project would likely be just starting rather than finishing. Could you image if UDOT was barely starting the Redwood Road widening project today? I personally am grateful that it is done!
I love this great city. I have worked diligently with our current City Council and staff to look ahead, plan ahead and ensure that we are ready for the growth ahead. Please be assured that we will continue to work proactively to ensure that we have some of the best roads, parks, storefronts and great amenities of Saratoga Springs. Our mission is for every resident to truly believe in our mantra that, “Life’s Just Better Here.”