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Mapping transportation

Task force OKs Mountain View Corridor projects

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WEST VALLEY CITY — A vision statement for transportation projects on the west side of Salt Lake and northern Utah counties, including options such as a new freeway and streetcar system, passed another milepost Wednesday.

A community task force organized by Envision Utah approved the vision statement and map for future transportation projects in the so-called Mountain View Corridor.

The statement is a very general guideline for growth, planning and development — as it relates to and impacts transportation — for an expansive area on either side of 5600 West from Salt Lake City into northern Utah County.

The document and map, approved by the Mountain View Corridor Growth Choices Stakeholder Committee during its final meeting Wednesday at the E Center, keep all of the options open for how transportation needs within the corridor may be met.

Those options include a six-lane, limited-access freeway that would follow a utility corridor along 5800 West for much of its length. But they also include transit alternatives such as Bus Rapid Transit and a "small" light rail, or streetcar, system.

The committee included members whose primary interest is the construction of the proposed freeway, as well as those whose primary interest is in building transit facilities before or instead of a new road.

Sierra Club representatives were successful in replacing one paragraph in the vision statement to say that the sequencing of transportation projects should be studied to determine what would be best for the community — allowing for the possibility that transit projects could be given a priority.

West Jordan Mayor Bryan Holladay said no matter what the exact solutions turn out to be, it is clear something needs to be done to improve mobility in the corridor.

"It's critical to get people moving on the west side because they just can't get to I-15 very easily, so we're glad to see that happening," Holladay said of the planning process.

The vision statement now will be sent to local governing bodies in the area (including Salt Lake County) over the next six to nine months for their approval, then forwarded on to the Utah Department of Transportation.

UDOT is working on an environmental impact statement for the corridor, which it expects to complete by the summer of 2006. That document will go a long way toward determining which transit and road projects will be built.

"We've still got a long way to go," Holladay said.

UDOT deputy director Carlos Braceras called the Envision Utah process "one of the most positive interactions I've seen in 18 years" of working on transportation projects.

"I hope you will stay committed to helping us pick the best solution for you, whatever it will be, because we don't have any predetermined notions of what the solution will be," Braceras told the committee.

Utah Transit Authority general manager John Inglish said he was encouraged by the inclusion of transit alternatives in the discussion and in the vision statement itself.

"About 10 years ago, if I'd been in a room with this many people, three-fourths of them would have been carrying signs that said, 'Light rail kills babies,' " Inglish told the committee. "And a lot of them would have been saying, 'Light rail, what's that?'

"It's a huge change that has occurred in our community in just 10 years."

The vision statement and map call for the creation of mixed-use centers in strategic locations along the corridor, surrounded by a variety of housing types. They give priority to pedestrian-oriented development, a balanced approach to transportation focusing on a variety of modes, and the preservation of open space within the corridor.

The intent of the document is to implement a coordinated planning strategy that can support and co-exist with any future transportation plans, allowing cities to continue growing without mortgaging those future needs.

E-mail: zman@desnews.com