Perspective map of Salt Lake City in 1891 (not to scale), illustrated by Henry Wellge, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division via loc.gov.
In March of 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 of 1969, Tooele County and its municipalities also joined WFRC. Morgan County and its lone municipality joined in 1972.
WFRC is an organization of governments dedicated to fostering cooperation to resolve problems and develop policies and plans that are regional in nature. Since its inception, WFRC has been composed of local elected officials representing county commissions or councils and municipal governments. In 2008, WFRC modified its membership to include non-voting representatives from the Utah State Senate, Utah State House of Representatives, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), and Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in order to establish better coordination and communication among all of the entities involved in transportation planning. Additional representatives of state, local, and other public agencies serve on various policy and technical committees of WFRC.
On December 26, 1973, then Governor Calvin Rampton designated WFRC 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 UDOT. As the MPO, every four years WFRC is responsible for the development of a 20- to 30-year, long-range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). WFRC first adopted the RTP, then known as the Long-Range Transportation Plan, in 1977. Additionally, WFRC is responsible for the preparation of a six-year, short-range Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which is updated annually. As an element of transportation planning, WFRC has also worked with the member cities and counties to establish a vision for future development in the region.
In its role as an MPO, 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), as well as 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. WFRC has made that determination since then, by evaluating all proposed RTPs and TIPs for conformity to the air quality SIP, as approved by the Utah State DAQ. WFRC also supports the DAQ in identifying transportation control measures to be included in the SIP. In addition, WFRC 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, WFRC 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 WFRC to assist in the administration of the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program 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, WFRC 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 WFRC’s assistance to write a pre-disaster natural hazards mitigation plan in fulfillment of a requirement from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The plan assists municipalities and counties in the adoption of policies and procedures that will help minimize the effects of a natural disaster. The plan was developed under the supervision of the division and has been updated again by WFRC in 2008. In the future, UDHS will be responsible for these plans.
In 2005, WFRC adopted the first iteration of the Wasatch Choice for 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 WFRC are designed to implement the Vision. The latest update of the Vision, The Wasatch Choice 2050, was adopted by the Council in 2016.
In 2009, UDHS asked WFRC 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, WFRC, 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.
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.
WFRC also sponsors the Wasatch Front Economic Development District (WFEDD), a non-profit organization created to support economic development plans, promote long-term economic competitiveness, and attract federal monies to implement local economic development plans. The WFEDD was designated as a regional economic development district by the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) in 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 adopted a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) that is updated annually and analyzes the regional economy and serves as a guide for establishing regional economic development goals and objectives.