We’ve all done it – complained about the seemingly endless maze of orange cones on our streets. But Sarah Wright, a senior at BYU, sees construction in a new light after interning for UDOT over the summer. Now when friends complain, it strikes a nerve. “They don’t really understand the broader perspective. They don’t understand the plan and the amount of effort, and the number of people whose jobs it is,” said Sarah.
There is a lot of planning that goes into each project, sometimes – 30 years of it.
Sarah explained, “They collaborate a lot with different cities, and they also collaborate with other regional planners.”
Transportation planners and cities work together regularly to prepare for the future. It’s their job to see the writing on the wall. Or for Shawn Seager, on the window. The Utah county transportation planner is running out of space in his office as he plans for TransPlan50 – a plan that extends to the year 2050, hence the name.
He said they try to keep this part behind the scenes as much as possible. “We try to take care of this stuff in the background, not be prominent, not be in the front of people’s lives,” he said. And that means a lot of looking to the future.
The population of Utah county is expected to double by 2035, and if no changes are made to roads and highways, delays will skyrocket, up to 13 times more than what we experience now.
“So the construction is kind of inevitable. As much as it sucks, it also means we’re growing, and that our economy is good.” That means a four minute delay today could be an hour in 2035.
To put that in perspective, let’s look at the route from Provo to Payson: an 18 min drive on average. Mountainland Association of Governments says if no transportation adjustments are made, it will take over an hour. The solution? An expanded grid system, a parallel I-15, the long awaited bridge across Utah lake, and adjustments to Pioneer Crossing are among the 100 suggested changes in the Utah County TransPlan2050, part of Utah’s broader plan.
Shawn says they’ll try to make the changes as painless as possible. “When we’ve surveyed people, we’ve found that people would prefer more intense pain for a short duration than a long period of suffering.”