Public, private and governmental agencies from across the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back are moving forward with a cooperative effort that seeks to address mountain transportation issues across the region.
On Monday, the executive committee of the Wasatch Summit Interlocal Agreement met at the Richins Building at Kimball Junction to discuss their plans for the next step of the process.
The goals of the Wasatch Summit include:
"This is a unique project in the United States right now," said Michael Gallis, a consultant to the Wasatch Summit, to the executive committee on Monday. "It faces all of the issues at a very large scale."
The group has agreed to enter Phase I of the process, which is expected to last 18 to 24 months in which the "interests and issues related to the use and conservation of the Wasatch Mountains" will be analyzed. Analyses of economic and environmental impacts will be conducted, as will land use, watershed protection and transportation alternatives.
Phase I will have to be consistent with the Federal Transit Administration's National Environmental Policy Act procedures. The federal regulatory process will guide the environmental impact studies that will be part of Phase II, expected to be completed by 2018.
Wasatch County Council member Steve Capson, a member of the executive committee, stressed that the federal regulatory process does not take economic impacts into consideration. He suggested that any transportation project be economically feasible.
Thus far, the Wasatch Summit has more than $3.5 million committed to the project, with $2.6 million coming from the Utah Department of Transportation.
The Wasatch Summit includes representatives from Park City, Summit County, Wasatch County, Salt Lake City, Alta, Cottonwood Heights, the Utah Transit Authority and other agencies. Balancing the different interests and issues that all of the parties have is an important part of the initial process.
To start the discussion, every executive committee member was asked to state the biggest problem facing the world, the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back and their agency. Some commonly listed problems included the effects of climate change, managing future growth with natural resources and maintaining the local quality of life and availability of recreational opportunities.
Summit County Council member Chris Robinson said that the biggest issue facing the county is the need to update both the Snyderville Basin General Plan and the development code. Park City Council member Andy Beerman added that maintaining the quality of life is the biggest problem, as well as how growth affects that quality.
Utah Transit Authority General Manager Michael Allegra stressed that the Wasatch Summit should be a "decision document" in that it proposes specific transportation projects that will help the region cope with growth and impacts on the environment.
Gallis said that addressing regional transportation issues will be crucial, as he said that the future could see a "vise" forming from Ogden and Salt Lake into the Wasatch Back and toward Provo that would include "twice as many people" wanting to access the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back.
"We're building a future that's going to guide this region, not just over the next few years, but over the next 40 years," Gallis said. "It's going to establish the first integrated framework combining economics, transportation, environment and infrastructure."