The Orem City Council recently took a little trip back to the future to see how its city is becoming the lead on transportation planning in Utah County.
Shawn Seager, transportation planner with Mountainland Association of Governments, told the council on Jan. 5, “Orem is serving as lead on the State Street corridor that makes transit work.”
He added, “but it only works if other cities like Lehi, Pleasant Grove and American Fork form a coalition to invest (with Orem’s visioning).
He emphasized the need for MAG’s TransPlan50 which projects the transportation goals to the year 2050 and is designed with the expected massive growth in Utah County in mind.
Seager said that as far back as the early stages of the Interstate 15 build-out, the Utah Department of Highways was about 20 percent under its population estimates and needs for transportation alternatives.
As a side note, he said I-15’s build-out, though started in the 1960s, was fully completed in 1974. The corridor through Utah Country was enlarged 35 years later. He asked the council what will transportation needs look like 30 years from now?
The Provo Area Transportation Study of 1963 said the 1960 census showed a population of 107,000 in the combined cities of Provo, Orem, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lehi, Springville and Spanish Fork. Cities like Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs were barely townships or settlements and not incorporated cities. Vineyard had Geneva Steel and about 350 residents.
The study projected that, by 1980, the population would increase 60 percent or by 64,200. The 1980 census showed 74,108 residents in the area, nearly 10,000 more than projected.
Sages said that Utah is conservative in its estimates and has been above the population projections since then, which brings the need for good transportation and roadway planning to the area.
“There are massive amounts of roadway construction needed in the future,” Seager said.
He pointed out that with the opening of the Utah Valley Express rapid bus transit line, there has been a substantial increase in ridership.
“The old 830 line had 2,000 riders a day,” Seager said. “There are now 10,000 a day on the new UVX route.”
Seager said that billions of dollars have been and need to be set aside over the next 30 years to fund planned transportation improvements in Utah County.
Funds have already been set aside for many programs in three phases. Phase one goes to 2030 including commuter rail from Provo to Payson, bus rapid transit from American Fork to Provo, core bus from Provo to Spanish Fork and from American Fork to Eagle Mountain and a Vineyard commuter rail station at 800 North.
Phase two is scheduled from 2031-2040 include core bus Provo to Payson, and from Saratoga Springs to the Salt Lake County line on Redwood Road, and commuter rail low-investment enhancement.
Phase three is from 2041-2050 and includes light rail from the Salt Lake County line to American Fork.
Over the past five years, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Transit Authority and the federal government have jointly spent $4 billion in Utah County.
Orem’s long-term planner Christian Kirkham said the State Street Master Plan is the key with how it’s formulating districts for business, the arts, and high-density housing and the city center.
“Orem’s got a lot more active retail and State Street has a lot more businesses,” Kirkham said. “The center of mass shifts to Orem as we see districts develop. We are hoping surrounding cities will develop their own districts.”
He added, “State Street ties all these communities together. If we get it all to tie together, there will be fewer need for cars.”
Kirkham encourages people to try the UVX especially for BYU game days, now that it’s up and running.
“It’s a behavioral shift,” he said. “People should try just one trip. These types of buses will be running up and down State Street.”
Seager said that big employers want transit and that it is one of the big reasons some are relocating to the area.
One day, according to Seager, the bus rapid transit that now runs between Provo and Orem will be running all the way to Lehi.