Transportation planning in the region is a cooperative effort of state and local agencies. The WFRC is responsible for coordinating this transportation planning process in the Salt Lake City-West Valley City and Ogden-Layton urbanized areas as the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Metropolitan Planning Organizations are agencies responsible for transportation planning in urbanized areas throughout the United States. The Governor designated the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC or Regional Council) as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Salt Lake and Ogden Areas in 1973.
The Regional Council has established several committees to guide the development of transportation plans. A Transportation Coordinating Committee (Trans Com) serves as a policy advisory body to the WFRC for the short range six year Transportation Improvement Program which allocates funds to individual projects. Trans Com includes elected officials from the six counties, representatives of the major transportation agencies in the area, including the Utah State Transportation Commission, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), and the Utah Air Quality Board. The Federal Highway Administration and the Mountainland Association of Governments are non-voting members. In addition, Transportation Technical Advisory Committees have been established to provide technical advice to Trans Com and the WFRC, concerning transportation programs for the region. The Technical Committees are made up of engineers from each of the jurisdictions, as well as from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the Division of Air Quality (DAQ), and others.
A second principal committee of the Regional Council is the Regional Growth Committee (RGC). The Regional Growth Committee is composed primarily of elected officials from the six counties along with representatives from DAQ, UTA, UDOT and non-voting representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, the Mountainland Association of Governments, Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties. The RGC acts as the policy advisory committee for the development of the 30-year horizon long range Regional Transportation Plan (formerly known as the Long Range Plan). The RGC has Technical Advisory Committees made up of local planners and engineers, from each of the jurisdictions, as well as from UDOT, UTA, and other interested stakeholders.
The RGC also makes recommendation to the Regional Council on the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Vision for growth and development. The Vision is a comprehensive template for growth planning along the Wasatch Front and has been adopted by the Regional Council and many of the area cities and counties. Inasmuch as the region is expected to add 1.2 million new residents by 2040 for a 59% growth rate, how we grow matters. The Vision has been carefully crafted to minimize the negative effects of growth and maximize the value of financial and natural resources we do have. The RTP and the Transportation Improvement Program (discussed below) are designed to implement the various elements of the Vision. Further information on the Vision is available here.
Transportation planning in the Salt Lake Area has been a continuing effort for over four decades. In the 1960s UDOT developed the first Long Range Plan for the area. Since 1973, the WFRC has developed Regional Transportation Plans and updated them regularly. The process is comprehensive in nature, addressing all modes of transportation, including highways, transit, trucking, rail, air, bicycle and pedestrian. Transportation Plans are also part of the comprehensive planning for the overall development of the region.
Two main products are developed through the transportation planning process. The first is a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which recommends improvements to highways, transit, and other modes, to meet the transportation needs of the area over a 20-year period and beyond. The second is a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP is a six-year capital improvement program for highway and transit projects contained in the Regional Transportation Plan. The Regional Transportation Plan is updated every four years, while the TIP is approved annually.
Two Federal Statutes establish various requirements that MPOs must address during the transportation planning process. They are the current transportation authorization act, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA). MAP-21 outlines the issues that need to be considered in developing a Regional Transportation Plan and a Transportation Improvement Program. Also, both CAAA and MAP-21 require that transportation plans and programs conform to state air quality plans.
Additionally, MAP-21 requires that both the RTP and the TIP include financial plans outlining how the recommendations of each component of the plan will be funded. The WFRC works with UDOT and UTA to estimate the revenues likely to be available for transportation improvement in the region. The WFRC then evaluates the long range, management systems, enhancements, and other needs, to determine the most financially feasible projects for incorporation into the RTP and the TIP.
In addition to preparing the TIP and the RTP noted above, the Regional Council also:
1. Provides a forum for discussion and cooperation among elected representatives of local jurisdictions concerning region-wide problems, primarily transportation and growth planning, and to provide professional services for these areas of concern.
2. Assists with the coordination of local programs, plans, and projects with Federal and State programs, and provides a mechanism to more firmly represent the official and unified thinking of these local jurisdictions to both State and Federal Agencies.
3. Provides a more effective organizational structure for local governments to coordinate local transportation plans and programs that overlap city or county boundaries or are regional in nature.
4. Promotes regionally adopted growth principles among the member municipalities and counties to guide development. These growth principles were adopted by the Regional Council after considerable study and deliberation. They represent strategies for cost effective, environmentally responsible development. As noted above, both the RTP and TIP are designed to implement the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Vision which is, in turn, based on the growth principles.
5. Sponsors and/or participates in other studies to establish transportation needs and solutions such as the State Street Liveability Study, the North Legacy Corridor Study, and many others.
6. Manages the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program for cities with populations less than 50,000 for Morgan, Weber and Tooele Counties.
7. Prepared the last two Natural Hazard Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plans for the Wasatch Front Region. The Plans are the standard set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for area cities and counties to prepare for natural disasters by implementing mitigation measures that will lessen the impacts of such events. All municipalities must adopt the Plan prior to any presidentially declared natural disaster in order to be eligible for federal assistance.
Further information is available about the history of the Council here.