ST. GEORGE – Have concerns or comments about the future of transportation in Washington County? The Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization released its updated 2015-2040 regional transportation plan this month and is seeking public comment.
The plan outlines 132 different projects, at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion. Through April 30, members of the public have the opportunity to review and comment on a proposed 70-page draft plan covering the next 25 years.
“We’ve received a great deal of interest in our long-term transportation plan,” said Myron Lee, director of the Dixie MPO.
Anyone with questions or concerns about any part of the plan can contact the Dixie MPO with their comments until the end of the month.
Updated every four years, the long-term plan is made in coordination with the Utah Department of Transportation, three other metropolitan planning organizations, county and municipal governments and the public.
“The (regional transportation plan) objective is to foster coordination of community leaders, the public, and stakeholders to plan for the transportation of people, goods, and services through goals centered on safety, air quality, congestion management, corridor preservation, public transit, pedestrian movement, and respect for environmental constraints,” Dixie MPO officials said in the proposed plan.
The transportation plan maps out projects needed in the next 25 years to avoid potential traffic problems caused by the county’s projected growth. According to the Dixie MPO, 147,800 people lived in the county in 2013. By 2020, the population is projected to grow to more than 177,000, and could hit 335,000 by 2040.
“The expected population growth coupled with the community’s desire to retain mobility for people, goods, and services defines the need for this plan,” officials wrote.
“This plan’s purpose is to outline how these needs could be addressed over the next 25 years with consideration of geography, environment, socioeconomic trends, and anticipated transportation demand.”
The plan identifies 132 transportation infrastructure projects across the county that will be addressed in three phases. Phase One covers 2015-24, Phase Two covers 2015-34, and Phase Three covers 2035-40.
Projects to be addressed during Phase One were determined by computer projections, Lee said. According to the data, he said, these are the projects that need to be done by 2024 so the county’s transportation infrastructure isn’t overwhelmed and fails to meet future traffic needs. The same applies for the projects outlined in Phases Two and Three.
In today’s dollars, the overall cost of the 132 outlined projects is $1.9 billion.
Funding is anticipated to come from a variety of sources, including federal, state and local governments and agencies. Some projects, such as those related to development, will be funded at various levels by the private developers.
“We recognize there are multiple places transportation funding can come from,” Lee said.
A new source of funding from the state will include a 5-cent per gallon gas tax hike passed by the Legislature this year, bringing the tax on gas, per gallon, from 24.5 cents to 29.5 cents starting July 1.
Much of the draft plan is based on elements of the 2007 Vision Dixie plan that focused on building a balanced approach to the transportation system, which includes a system of public transportation, connected roads, and meaningful opportunities for active transportation such as walking and bicycling.
The Vision Dixie plan also the addressed the need to maintain water and air quality, and these concerns have been incorporated into the MPO plan.
Active transportation and public transit
“Pedestrian and bicycle facilities are an integral part of the area’s transportation system,” the draft plan states. “Active transportation provides a myriad of economic, environmental and social benefits for the region.”
The plan outlines goals and objectives relating to the construction and maintenance of pedestrians and bicycle facilities, as well as the promotion of safety policies related to active transportation.
Pertaining the public transportation, the plans notes the existing SunTran bus system, which is operated by the City of St. George. In January, the bus service expanded into Ivins, thanks to an agreements between Ivins and St. George. Washington City is also pursuing an agreement with St. George to expand bus service into that city.
A study conducted by the Dixie MPO recommends a phased approach to establishing a county-wide public transit system. It starts with service improvements in St. George and the surrounding cities, followed by the creation of a regional transit district.
“This is only possible through public support, which should be gauged throughout the process,” officials said in the draft plan.
The topic of air quality is addressed extensively in the draft plan. Currently Washington County is not under federal or state air quality regulations, and the Dixie MPO is planning for ways to maintain that status moving forward.
A push for alternative means of travel, such as car pooling, active transportation, public transit and so forth, is mentioned in the draft plan, as is the need to lessen traffic congestion over all.
“It’s more dangerous to air quality to create congestion,” Lee said. “Air quality is something that is very important to us.”
The draft plan covers many issues related to transportation over the next 25 years not discussed in this article, such as promoting traffic safety, specifics on transportation funding, dealing with environmental issues as well as air quality, security, and other concerns.
Individuals interested in reviewing the Dixie MPO’s draft 2015-2040 regional transpiration plan can obtain a PDF copy in the resources section below, or go to the Dixie MPO website for a copy.
Comments on the draft plan can be submitted to Myron Lee via the Five County Association of Governments Office at 435-673-3548.
The public comment period runs through April 30.
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- Ribbon cutting heralds start of SunTran bus service in Ivins; STGnews Videocast
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