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Benefits and Impacts

The Wasatch Front Regional Council established seven goals for the Draft 2015-2040 RTP that encapsulate the priorities of the public as voiced in the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Regional Growth Principles, while also reflecting the goals of our federal, state, and regional transportation partners.

Regional Transportation Plan Goals

Enhance safety and health

A primary goal of the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan is to improve the safety of the transportation network for the users and promote the general health of the population.  Safety projects and projects including safety features recommended by the Plan provide a direct social benefit to target populations through reduced accidents and injuries and cost associated therewith. These benefits include improved bicycle and pedestrian safety through the implementation of the Bicycle Plan and the use of the ‘Complete Streets’ policy for all road projects, the improvement of intersection safety, the promotion of safer truck travel and the enhancement of railroad crossing safety.  Health is promoted through the implementation of the active transportation elements of the Plan which provides dramatically improved opportunities for bicycling and walking.

Preserve infrastructure

The Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) believes that the maintenance and preservation of existing transportation facilities is essential.  Therefore, substantial resources within the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) are dedicated to basic maintenance and operation of the existing system.  This is a priority of both UDOT, UTA and local governments.  UDOT has recently updated its asset management program that identifies funding levels needed to maintain and preserve UDOT’s pavements and structures, and to improve the safety of its system.  These new projections of funding needed to preserve the existing system, show an increase from previous estimates and were included in the financial portion of the RTP.  This program, combined with proper access management, incident management, and the updating of signal timing, will help preserve the existing transportation system.  The 2015-2040 RTP also recommends the upgrading of transit facilities and the replacement of all vehicles on a regular schedule.  Funding projections for transit preservation and maintenance have been developed in conjunction with UTA.

Provide mobility and accessibility

A central goal of any transportation plan is to promote mobility and accessibility.  The accessibility provided by the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) road network is substantially better than that of the previous, 2011-2040 RTP.  The accessibility of the 2015-2040 RTP transit network is about 1 percent less than that of the 2011.  Among the factors influencing accessibility is the number of transportation facilities in the RTP. The 2015-2040 RTP has fewer major transit facilities than the 2011-2040 RTP transit network.  However, the 2015-2040 RTP dedicates a substantial amount of money to more local bus and more hours of service on the existing rail network which should dramatically improve transit access.

Achieve cost efficiency

Cost efficiency is a key measure for the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).  Cost efficiency measures how effective, in financial terms, the RTP is in meeting the other objectives.  One of the Plan’s key objectives, for example, is providing timely transportation access to jobs and higher education opportunities.  The cost of providing this was compared early in the planning process between the various alternative growth scenarios.  Other objectives were also assessed on a cost basis.  Both the highway and the transit networks in the 2015-2040 RTP are more cost effective than the 2011-2040 RTP.

Promote economic vitality

Consistent with the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Vision, the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) believes in a transportation network that enhances the regional economy. To this end, WFRC seeks to improve mobility and make transportation investment and land use decisions that retain and recruit businesses, labor, provide reasonable job access, promote freight mobility and keep the region an affordable place to live and do business.

As part of the Plan development process, the WFRC sought feedback from the region’s Wasatch Front Economic Development District (WFEDD) in order to gain a better understanding of transportation related economic needs, impacts, and benefits. One of the WFEDD objectives is to encourage development near transportation hubs and along public transit corridors. Another objective is to promote multi-modal transportation options, especially those that encourage and promote existing corridors.  This and the road projects within the Plan provided an improved level of employment access for area residents.  The Plan has also provided additional opportunity for freight movement and the promotion of commence in general.

Support environmental stewardship

The Wasatch Front Regional Council believes that all of its plans should promote a healthy environment and a generally improved quality of life.  Therefore, the effects of the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan on various aspects of the environment were carefully reviewed as part of the transportation project selection process.  In particular, the 2040 Plan’s effect on general air quality, noise, water quality, wetlands, water bodies and floodplains, cropland and sensitive species was examined and evaluated.  Site specific impacts will need to be investigated in detail as NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) principles are applied to the planning processes of individual projects prior to construction.  Most new road and transit improvement projects that receive federal funding require, at a minimum, a detailed environment assessment (EA), which outlines the social, economic and environmental impacts of the various project alternatives considered.  The approval of a draft and a final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) are required if environmental and social impacts for a specific transportation project are deemed “significant”.

Also, the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan has a substantial green infrastructure element that promotes the preservation of green or natural areas and an interconnected network of natural systems.  Green Infrastructure benefits a large number of people in the Wasatch Front in numerous ways. It enhances public health and safety through increased access or availability of parks, trails, walking paths, trees, recreation areas, and even wildfire suppression. It can provide a natural method for capturing and cleaning drinking water and storm water. It can promote healthy food production through increased community supported agriculture, pocket gardens, and the protection or preservation of agricultural lands and prime farmland soil. Green infrastructure can also mitigate flood hazards through the implementation of natural stormwater detention basins.

Some green infrastructure benefits, such as water purification, nutrient storage and cycling, flood attenuation, soil generation, and carbon sequestration are necessary functions that otherwise would be ignored or provided by expensive constructed gray infrastructure systems. The ecosystem benefits provided by green infrastructure have considerable financial value when compared with the costs of generating equivalent benefits from gray infrastructure.

Encourage community-friendly and sustainable urban form

As part of the 2015 Regional Transportation Plan update process, an updated regional land use and transportation vision, known as “Wasatch Choice for 2040,” helped further define and clarify how the Region’s Growth Principles translate into mixed use corridors, transit oriented developments, and higher density centers.  This Regional Vision is an attempt to ensure that the billions of dollars programmed for transportation improvements over the next three decades will directly support and sustain planned land uses.  The type of growth patterns and planned transportation investments must be coordinated to create a desired future along the Wasatch Front.  The adoption of the 2040 Vision, along with its supporting Growth Principles, provided a framework for key transportation decisions within the Plan and the revised 2040 Vision map will help guide transportation improvements and land use decisions designed to improve the Region’s quality of life.

The Regional Transportation Plan goals relate directly to the mission and strategic goals of WFRC's key transportation partners, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Utah Transit Authority (UTA). The goals are also consistent with the National Performance Goals and Planning Strategies of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the federal transportation funding program.