We have some of the worst air quality in the nation. That should come as no surprise to anyone reading this, as our air quality constantly gets national and local news coverage. What should come as a surprise is our government's seeming unwillingness to adequately tackle the issue.
In response to our air quality dilemma, our governor created the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) in 2012. It is UCAIR's mission to come up with solutions to our air quality problem. UCAIR's main focus thus far has been asking individuals to voluntarily reduce their driving to improve air quality in the state of Utah.
If UCAIR's main focus is in getting the public to drive less, I believe that it is in their best interest to disapprove of UDOT's proposed West Davis Corridor, and instead support the Shared Solution proposed by Utahns for Better Transportation as an alternative to the West Davis Corridor.
Building a new freeway along the Wasatch Front will do nothing but worsen our air quality. Numerous studies have shown that new roads generate new vehicular travel as well as increase vehicle miles traveled. The increase in driving that will follow a new freeway will certainly have a negative impact on air quality along the Wasatch Front. If UCAIR believes the solution to our air quality problem is to get us to drive less, they should be vehemently opposing UDOT's freeway plans that will undoubtedly encourage us to do just the opposite.
The Shared Solution, proposed by Utahns for Better Transportation as an alternative to the West Davis Corridor, does everything that a new freeway does not. The Shared Solution calls for improving existing infrastructure and creating more vibrant local communities with jobs, entertainment and shopping closer to home. These "boulevard communities" will be closely linked to walking and cycling paths, and will also be closely linked to mass transit hubs. The Shared Solution will cut down on the need for vehicular travel and will decrease the distance we need to travel when we do get into our cars. With our air pollution problem being what it is, the Shared Solution is something that UCAIR should be enthusiastically supporting.
I've typed up a formal proposal which asks UCAIR to endorse the Shared Solution. It is my opinion that if UCAIR asks us to drive less, they should be willing to endorse an innovative plan that will make it easier for us all to do so. Unfortunately, UCAIR has declined to accept my proposal, and has stated that they will not take a stance on policy issues. This is unfortunate. In asking us to drive less, we should assume that UCAIR is doing everything in their power to make it easier for us to do so.
Here are my questions for UCAIR: Do you want to accomplish the goals that the governor placed in your hands? Are you willing to take a stance on policy issues if it will help you accomplish those goals? Do you want to prove that UCAIR isn't more smoke and mirrors? Are you really willing to tackle our air quality catastrophe?
More information on the shared solution can be found at: utahnsforbettertransportation.org/
My proposal asking UCAIR to support the Shared Solution can be found at:
Carl Ingwell is the founder and president of the air quality groups Governor, We Cannot Breathe and U. Student Clean Air Network (USCAN).