In March 1969, local elected officials in Davis, Salt Lake, and Weber Counties and their constituent cities organized the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) as a volunteer organization to address the solutions to regional problems and for the purpose of establishing a review agency to comply with requirements to obtain federal grants and loans. In June 1969, Tooele County and its municipalities also joined the Regional Council. Morgan County and its lone municipality joined in 1972.
The Regional Council is an organization of governments dedicated to fostering cooperation in resolving problems and developing policies and plans that are regional in nature. Since its inception, the Regional Council has been composed of local elected officials representing county commissions or councils and municipal governments. In 2008, the Regional Council modified its membership to include non-voting representatives from the Utah State Senate, the Utah State House of Representatives, the Utah Department of Transportation, and the Utah Transit Authority in order to establish better coordination and communication among all the entities involved in transportation planning. Additional representatives of state, local and other public agencies serve on various policy and technical committees of the Council.
On December 26, 1973, then Governor Calvin Rampton designated the Regional Council as the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for transportation planning in the Salt Lake and Ogden urbanized areas in Utah (roughly Salt Lake, Davis, and western Weber Counties), taking over these responsibilities from the Utah Department of Transportation. As the MPO, the Regional Council is responsible for the development of a 30 year long range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and the preparation of a short range six year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). As an element of transportation planning, the Regional Council has also worked with the member cities and counties to establish a vision for future development in the region.
The Regional Council first adopted a Regional Transportation Plan, then known as the Long Range Transportation Plan, in 1977. The Plan has since been updated every few years since then, with the latest RTP adopted in May 2011. The current RTP is listed as the Wasatch Front Urbanized Area Regional Transportation Plan: 2011-2040. The WFRC has also adopted updated Transportation Improvement Programs annually since its designation as an MPO, most recently in August 2012.
In its role as an MPO, the WFRC works with the State Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to improve the region’s air quality. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, and later, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and the current federal transportation legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) require that transportation plans and programs adopted by MPOs conform to the approved state air quality implementation plan (SIP) for the local area. The Regional Council has made that determination since then by evaluating all proposed RTPs and TIPs for conformity to the air quality State Implementation Plan (SIP) as approved by the Utah State Division of Air Quality. The WFRC also supports the DAQ in identifying transportation control measures to be included in the SIP. In addition, the Regional Council has established an Air Quality Committee to pursue strategies to improve air quality that go beyond the requirements of the SIP.
In addition to the transportation planning responsibilities noted above, the Council promotes cooperation and coordination among local governments in the urban region for other issues as well. Among these are community development; homeland security; mobility management for persons with disabilities, seniors, and low income persons; and economic development.
In 1983, the Utah State Department of Community and Economic Development asked the Regional Council to assist in the administration of the federal Community Development Block Grants for cities and unincorporated county areas of less than 50,000 population in Davis, Weber, Morgan and Tooele Counties. Since then Davis County has chosen to run its own program leaving WFRC to assist in administering the program for Weber, Morgan and Tooele Counties. Each year, Regional Council staff members coordinate approximately $1, 000,000 in grants for projects dealing with low income housing, infrastructure needs for low to moderate income areas, seniors, human service needs and many other local government sponsored projects and programs.
In 2004, the Utah Division of Homeland Security (UDHS) asked for the Regional Council’s assistance in writing a pre-disaster natural hazards mitigation plan in fulfillment of a requirement from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Plan assists municipalities and counties in the adoption of policies and procedures that will help them minimize the effects of a natural disaster. The Plan was developed under the supervision of the Division and has been updated again by the Regional Council. In 2008, UDHS asked the Regional Council to update the Plan which can be found here. In the future, UDHS will be responsible for these plans.
In 2005, the Regional Council adopted the first iteration of the Wasatch Choice 2040 Vision for growth and development across the Wasatch Front Urban Region. The Vision is a template for suggested land use and development patterns across the Wasatch Front. It is based on nine growth principles and an underlying set of implementation strategies which, if followed, will result in lower levels of traffic congestion, air pollution, and open space consumption. All short and long range transportation plans adopted by the Regional Council are designed to implement the Vision. The latest update of the Vision, The Wasatch Choice for 2040, was adopted by the Regional Council in May 2010 and can be found here.
In 2009, UDHS asked the Regional Council to assist them in another effort to foster interoperability of radio communication between the various emergency response and public safety agencies. The inability of public safety agencies to communicate during emergency situations in other parts of the country has proven to be very costly in lives and property. To this end, the Regional Council, with funding from UDHS, gathered the needed information regarding radio frequencies, radio equipment and other data and published them in a special report given to UDHS and the area public safety agencies. Further information is available about the functions of the Council here.
The Wasatch Regional Coordination Council for Community Transportation (RCC), established in 2010, serves the five-county region including Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Tooele, and Weber counties. The Mission of the RCC is to “foster, organize and guide local and regional coordination efforts that directly or indirectly improve access and mobility for seniors, persons with disabilities, persons with low income, and veterans.” Local mobility councils have been established in each county. For further information, please visit the website at WasatchRides.com.
The Regional Council also sponsors the Wasatch Front Economic Development District (WFEDD) which is a nonprofit organization created to support economic development plans, promote long-term economic competitiveness, and attract federal monies to implement local economic development plans. The WFEDD will seek a designation as a regional economic development district by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) in the first part of 2013. The primary objective of the WFEDD is to bring together the public and private sectors in the creation of an economic roadmap to diversify and strengthen regional economies. The WFEDD will adopt a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) that will analyze the regional economy and serve as a guide for establishing regional economic development goals and objectives.