Primary seatbelt law would save lives

Monday, January 13th, 2014


By LaVarr Webb

Carlos Braceras is Utah’s chief road builder. He also handles a host of other transportation-related tasks as director of the Utah Department of Transportation. But Braceras has a big passion beyond road-building. He also wants to keep people alive and uninjured as they drive on Utah’s roads and highways.

Automobile-related crashes are one of Utah’s biggest causes of premature death. Crash injuries wreak further havoc on individuals and families. So while Braceras, an engineer by training, loves big construction projects and is proud of UDOT’s record of highway-building and maintenance, he has taken on a personal crusade to prevent highway deaths and injuries.

“Even one death on the highway is one too many,” says Braceras, who was appointed UDOT director in May, 2013, by Gov. Gary Herbert. “Knowing the anguish, heartache and financial hardships caused by traffic injuries and deaths, I’m not willing to tolerate even one death. A death is not just a statistic. It’s a real person with family and loved ones. I’m not willing to accept that anyone needs to die in an automobile accident.”

Braceras fully understands that to completely eliminate automobile injuries and deaths will be difficult,. But he notes one simple thing could be done by every driver and passenger that would make an immediate real difference.

Buckle up.

Buckling up is simple, easy, doesn’t cost a dime, takes little time — and saves lives and prevents serious injuries.

“In 2012, 217 people died on Utah roads,” Braceras said. “The most common contributing factor was a failure to buckle up. The best thing people can do to stay safe even in a crash to always wear a seat belt.”

The 217 deaths aren’t just a statistic to Braceras. He knows they represent fathers, mothers, children, and friends who leave a big hole in a family, creating sorrow, heartbreak and financial difficulties. The overall cost to society of one fatality is estimated to average $1.1 million.

Because seat belt use has been proven to reduce injuries and deaths on the road, Braceras is a strong proponent of a proposed Primary Seatbelt Law, which may be discussed in the upcoming legislative session. Motorists and passengers are already required by law to wear seatbelts, but use is more casual than it should be because ignoring the law is not a “primary” infraction. Law enforcement personnel, for example, cannot pull over a driver for not using a seatbelt. Some other infraction must be suspected to enforce the seatbelt requirement.

National statistics show that average seatbelt use is 12 percent higher in states with a primary seat belt law. Research shows that in Utah about half of the unbuckled fatalities in 2012 – 39 people – could have been saved if a seat belt had been properly used.

The Utah Highway Patrol and a number of other groups also support a primary seatbelt law.

Braceras notes that highways and automobiles are safer today than ever before. When accidents and deaths are measured against increased highway miles traveled, far fewer deaths and injuries occur on the highways today than any time in the past. Additional technological advances on both highways and automobiles will continue to make driving safer.

And yet, every day multiple crashes occur on Utah roads and highways. On most days, someone is killed. And a significant number of deaths and injuries could be prevented if motorists would simply buckle up. A primary seatbelt law would save lives every year, Braceras says.

Some people argue that a primary seatbelt law would restrict personal freedom. But it isn’t just a matter of endangering oneself, say highway safety experts. Unbuckled drivers and passengers also put others at risk.

In a crash, unbuckled drivers and passengers can become projectiles, increasing the risk of hurting or killing others in the car by 40 percent.

Drivers in a crash or sliding on a slick road are vastly better able to stay in the driver seat and maintain control of the vehicle if they are wearing a seatbelt, preventing rollovers and crashes with other vehicles.

For more information, see UDOT’s  ZERO Fatalities program:


The 2014 Public Policy Guide and business priorities released

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Salt Lake Chamber released the business community’s priorities for the upcoming General Legislative Session within the 2014 Public Policy Guide. The Public Policy Guide was presented to the speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser Wednesday morning. The guide outlines the Chamber’s position on policy issues including economic development, education, transportation, water, energy and minerals, clean air, outdoor recreation and tourism, Downtown Rising, immigration, international competitiveness, and small business.

“The 2014 Public Policy Guide is a Chamber publication, but it represents the broad-based support of chambers of commerce across the state as well as other important business associations,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “These are the priorities of Utah’s diverse business sectors from across the state and it’s critical that we speak with one voice.”

View and download the 2014 Public Policy Guide PDF here.

Economic Development 
Economic development and job creation is the cornerstone priority for Utah’s business community. The 2014 Public Policy Guide highlights and supports the “Your Utah, Your Future” quality growth strategy, initiated by Gov. Gary Herbert and Envision Utah, in taking the long-term view on public policy issues. The guide also outlines priorities that will facilitate economic growth and strengthen the economy, including a continued stance against general tax increases not supported by the public, a commitment to eliminating harmful regulation and a collaborative challenge to enhance Utah’s competitiveness through attracting regional corporate headquarters to the state.

“Utah’s economy is extremely well-positioned for continued growth in 2014. The private-sector is set to accomplish the significant goal of creating 150,000 jobs since the recession–more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber and associate dean of the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. “However, Utah’s economy faces economic headwinds from our nation’s capital and risks economic hardship if we do not address our education system and transportation infrastructure.”

Prosperity 2020
An educated workforce has a direct correlation with economic prosperity and is a top priority for Utah’s business community. To be globally competitive, Utah must return to a top-10 state in overall education rankings. To meet this challenge, the Chamber outlines key priorities to improve: 4th grade reading scores; 8th grade math scores; high school completion and college and career readiness; innovative teaching in public education; and Utah’s ability to reach 66 percent of Utahns with postsecondary degrees or certificates.

“Investing in our children is the best investment we can make as a community,” said Alan Hall, Chair ofProsperity 2020, founder and co-managing director of Mercato Partners, and chairman of Marketstar. “Facing unprecedented growth, we need to ensure that the largest population of young people in the country will be deployed as the best educated workforce, propelling Utah to enduring prosperity.”

Prosperity 2020 and the business community, through school-business partnerships, can improve school environments and boost outcomes for students. In addition to advocacy, the Utah business community has developed partnerships that support our education system and improve outcomes. The guide highlights how businesses across the state are becoming directly involved in the educational success of Utah’s children through a myriad of partnerships, including tutoring students, volunteering in classrooms, sponsoring activities, advising programs of study, providing internships and funding scholarships.

“Utah’s business leaders understand the urgency of addressing our education challenges,” said Beattie. “As a strong backer of the Prosperity 2020 movement, we are very supportive of the priorities and commitment of the Legislature’s Education Taskforce and will work to make these policies a reality.”

Recent completions of major transportation initiatives have made Utah a national example in our commitment to disciplined planning and investment in transportation infrastructure. As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, continued investments are critical to economic growth and accommodating future generations of Utahns.

“Our community continues to rapidly grow,” said H. David Burton, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition.  “We must act now to ensure future generations can enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life.”

The guide outlines support for a five-year action plan to fully fund Utah’s prioritized transportation needs identified in Utah’s 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. This action plan includes allowing local governments to address their urgent transportation challenges, investments to improve our transit system, and a call for the expansion and inflation-adjustment of user fees to meet critical needs.

“Investments in transportation infrastructure benefit every aspect of our economy,” said David Golden, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition, and executive vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Group’s Mountain Division. “The need for investment is critical and requires immediate action in order to sustain and enhance our world-class business and economic climate.”

Natural Resource Business Council
Utah’s spectacular natural environment is a legacy passed to us from preceding generations and is a key component of the state’s economy and high quality of life. The guide is the debut of the Chamber’s Natural Resource Business Council, which represents a comprehensive approach to the state’s natural environment and important sectors of Utah’s economy. The Chamber’s clean air and energy and minerals task forces, as well as two new Chamber initiatives in Water and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, are organized under the Council.

“Utah’s natural resources provide Utah families with unparalleled life quality and economic opportunities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “We owe future generations our best stewardship efforts to ensure they enjoy the same advantages we now enjoy.”

The Natural Resource Business Council priorities include developing a long-term vision on Utah’s water needs, enhancing rural economic development, improving transportation options to Utah’s energy rich Uinta Basin, supporting Utah’s tourism marketing and addressing air quality issues.

Specifically, the guide highlights the Chamber’s support for: the PM2.5 State Implementation Plan, increased transportation funding to improve our transit system and reduce idling on Utah’s roadways, cleaner vehicles, increased efforts for public awareness and research, and incentives to facilitate small businesses’ participation in emission reductions.

“Air quality for many Utahns’ is the state’s most pressing issue,” said Beattie. “Clean air makes good business sense and the Utah business community is committed to being a champion for improving our air quality.”

The 2014 Public Policy guide is available online at

Here are some photos from the event where we presented speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser:

Rep. Johnny Anderson: A Transportation Champion

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

By LaVarr Webb

When Johnny Anderson was growing up in Taylorsville, he was interested in current events and politics, but he didn’t have personal political ambitions. As he began raising his own family in Taylorsville and starting a business, he had no expectation of running for office.

But Anderson ended up getting involved in politics in a natural way, starting at the grassroots level out of concern for his business and industry. From those beginnings, Anderson was appointed to the Utah House in 2009 and, even though he’s a relative newcomer, now serves as chair of the House Transportation Committee.

Anderson built a child care business with his mother, first opening a home care center in Taylorsville, then in 1992 opening a child care center in West Valley City. The business has grown to eight locations, making it the largest child care operation in the state.

Child care centers are heavily regulated, so Anderson became involved in the industry association. “I enjoyed networking and I found we all faced a lot of the same challenges as small businesses.” He was elected vice-chair of government relations. “I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I started dealing with the licensing bureau and state laws dealing with our industry, and I found governmental processes to be quite intriguing.”

Anderson, who calls himself a moderate Republican, came to understand the importance of the Legislature and that his industry needed to develop relationships, educate lawmakers, and increase its influence. “We encouraged people to get involved in the caucus process and get elected as delegates to provide more awareness of our industry,” he said. “I was elected as a state delegate and I supported the Huntsman-Herbert ticket, especially because Gary Herbert was a member of our association at the time. He and his wife had a child care business.”

Anderson also was selected to serve on the board of the national child care association and became involved in federal-level government relations. “I found it very interesting and enjoyed getting to know how government works and developing relationships with elected leaders.”

At the time, Kory Holdaway represented District 34 in the Taylorsville area of western Salt Lake County. “I liked Kory’s approach to politics and I had a good relationship with him. He would listen to our issues and was dedicated to supporting education and young people.”

When Holdaway resigned to take a job with the Utah Education Association, he contacted Anderson and encouraged him to run for the job. “I first said no, but after talking to my family and considering whether I could make a contribution, I agreed to run.”

Anderson had served as legislative district chair in District 34, so he knew most of the delegates. Five other candidates also sought the position, but he worked hard, won the support of delegates, was appointed by the governor in 2009, and was elected in his own right in 2010. “I’ve had four sessions so far. My industry involvement was really helpful, and veteran legislators have taken me under their wing. It has been a great experience.”

The district Anderson represents is a swing district, and Anderson will seek re-election in 2014. He usually has tough races and he believes his contest in the No. 1 legislative target for Democrats.

Anderson said he likes House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart’s collaborative leadership style, and he has supported her since arriving at the Legislature. He was appointed to serve on the Transportation and Education committees, and after a few sessions Lockhart appointed him vice-chair of Transportation, with veteran Rep. Brad Daw as chair. “I really enjoyed working with Brad,” Anderson said. “Then when he moved on I was in the top half in committee seniority, so Speaker Lockhart asked me to be chair.”

Anderson has immersed himself in transportation issues, and has become an advocate for excellent transportation infrastructure. “Good mobility, which results from adequate transportation investment, is absolutely key to a strong economy. Even in the child care business, we have to care about transportation because we have a fleet of buses that need to get around the valley,” he said. “Every business owes its success, in part, because visionary leaders have built great infrastructure. Mobility is one of Utah’s key assets, and we need to keep the momentum moving forward. Building transportation infrastructure is one of the genuinely proper roles of government.”

Anderson said Utah has world-class transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations, and he appreciates their work in developing the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan, which maps out the state’s major transportation projects and funding needs over the next 30 years. “The 2040 Plan is a great example of local governments, transportation agencies and the business community working collaboratively to ensure good mobility,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in many places in the country, and it’s a real advantage for Utah.”

Anderson’s interim Transportation Committee, which he co-chairs with Sen. Kevin Van Tassell of Vernal, spent the summer and fall focusing on the state’s transportation needs and educating committee members, other legislators, and stakeholder groups. Anderson was hopeful that the Legislature would look at some form of gasoline tax boost in the upcoming 2014 session that begins in late January.

But it’s looking unlikely that the governor and Legislature will support any sort of tax increase in the next session, so Anderson wants to spend the next interim period reviewing funding proposals with the hope of bringing a package to the 2015 session.

Asked if transportation funding competes with education, Anderson said the Legislature needs to fund both of them adequately. In general, they don’t compete directly, because education at the state level is funded mostly through the income tax and transportation through user fees like the gas tax, and also the sales tax. Also, some transportation taxes, like the sales tax that supports public transit, are approved directly by the people through ballot measures.

Anderson said he recognizes that the portion of the gas tax that is distributed to local governments is no longer sufficient to meet their needs. The gas tax has lost nearly 40 percent of its purchasing power since it was last raised in 1997. “We do need to let local governments solve their problems by providing some options,” he said.

The lawmaker also believes public transit is increasingly important in the state’s transportation mix, especially with rapid growth, air quality problems, and congested highways. “In the Salt Lake Valley, I understand the vision of transit-oriented development, with mixed use population centers connected by public transit. We see the demographics changing, people wanting to live in higher-density, mixed-use developments. Not everyone wants a half-acre with a lot of lawn in the suburbs.”

Anderson also believes legislators and citizens need to be more realistic and honest about what’s happening at the federal level. “The federal government is broke. Federal transportation funds aren’t going to immediately dry up, but we can’t count on large federal outlays on into the future.”

For Utah to be self-sufficient, taxes have to go up, Anderson said. “We’ve been kicking the can down the road for too long. Too much has been built on borrowed money. We need solid, secure funding.”

Despite the challenges, Anderson is optimistic about Utah’s long-term prospects. “We are sensible here. We work together and we have good leaders at all levels of government. We solve problems.” He said he believes Utah is ahead of most states in constructing and preserving transportation infrastructure, and will continue in that leadership position on into the future.

Transportation investment key to economic growth

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber has a long history of supporting the Utah economy by championing transportation investment. We supported Prop. 3 that funded the expansion of mass transit and road along the Wasatch Front and eventually became 70 miles of new rail line that was completed two years ahead of schedule and more than $300 million under budget.

Today, the Chamber, through the Utah Transportation Coalition, is leading the charge to fully fund the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. Utah is already on pace to invest some $43 billion in roads, rails and trails over the next 30 years, but maximizing our return on that investment will require investing an additional $11 billion. You can see the study here.

Recently, the U.S. Chamber produced a video to help better understand the importance of investment in our transportation infrastructure.

SLC & UTA Encourage Residents to Help Improve Air Quality With New Transit Program

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was written by EDCUtah and was originally published on the Utah Pulse

Just in time for inversion season, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Utah Transit Authority General Manager Michael Allegra have announced a partnership offering city residents discounted passes to make riding transit more affordable.

It’s a move that would help improve air quality by minimizing the number of regular car trips.

That’s good news for Wasatch Front air quality, as vehicle emissions account for more than half of the air pollution that gets trapped along the Wasatch Front during our winter inversions. Under the pilot plan, which begins in early 2014 and is modeled after bulk pass programs offered by UTA, Salt Lake City residents will be eligible to purchase one-year transit passes for $360. That translates to $30 a month, giving residents the option to ride UTA buses, TRAX or FrontRunner rather than drive. The city is paying $150,000 to administer the program.

UTA and Salt Lake City are banking on at least 6,000 residents purchasing the passes. But how much of a difference will it make in our air quality? With 6,000 or more participants, the program has the potential to eliminate about 10,290,000 miles per year and an estimated 30 tons of pollutants from the air.

The key to the program, says UTA Senior Media Relations Specialist Remi Barron, is for 6,000 or more Salt Lake City residents to sign up. “We are optimistic the program will work out fine and continue on, but it is a one-year pilot program right now,” he notes. “UTA is interested to see how popular the program is and how the numbers work out. This is all stuff that hasn’t been done before.”

Offering incentivized use of mass transit to improve air quality is a novel idea UTA hopes other cities will be interested in as well. Studies show that by having transit passes in their pockets, residents are more likely to utilize mass transit. According to data from Salt Lake City, residents could break even on their transit investments by replacing car travel with six round trips per month on UTA transit systems. There would be no limit on the number of passes purchased per household, and residents can pay for the passes all at once or in installments of $30 per month, charged to their utility bills. (Ski bus, Park City Connect and paratransit services will be excluded from the pass.)

If the program receives the required support from city residents, it could become a sustainable piece of Salt Lake City’s efforts to improve the air quality. “We hope everyone will jump on board and take advantage of this pass,” Becker said during the announcement last month.

“UTA’s goal is to get a pass in everyone’s pocket,” added Allegra. “This is an innovative approach where a city is investing its resources to make transit passes available to all its residents. If the one-year pilot is successful, UTA hopes to refine and expand the program to other communities.”

EDCUtah President and CEO Jeff Edwards lauds the partnership as another example of Utahns working together. “Poor air quality can be a turn-off for economic development. It also diminishes our quality of life and drives up our health care costs,” he says. “We appreciate Salt Lake City leaders for being innovative in addressing our air quality challenges and making UTA’s transit systems an affordable alternative for city residents.”

Salt Lake Chamber Executive Vice President Marty Carpenter calls the residential transit program a win-win for air quality and city residents. “We’ve made wise investments in our transportation infrastructure, and that’s helped us in a number of ways,” he says. “Innovative programs like this will help more people see the benefit of our investment and help improve our air quality.”

Barron notes that UTA is also holding an open house on Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the North Salt Lake City Hall to get ideas and opinions from Davis County residents on the future of transit between south Davis County and downtown Salt Lake City.

UTA is partnering with Bountiful City, City of North Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Davis County and the Wasatch Front Regional Council to conduct an Alternatives Analysis (AA) study to better understand current and future transit needs of people living in southern Davis County through the planning horizon of 2040.

Mountain Transportation – The Vision

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Photo credit: Jungfrau Railways

Editor’s note: This post was authored by LaVarr Webb on May 3, 2013 and originally published on

We love our Wasatch Front mountains. Their value is incalculable. The challenge is to keep from loving them to death. Almost instant access to gorgeous alpine vistas and recreation by a couple million people makes the Wasatch Front unique in America — but also makes our mountains susceptible to overuse and degradation. How do we keep the mountains pristine and preserve them for future generations while continuing to enjoy them?

Part of the answer is clean and innovative mountain transportation. A large share of mountain impact comes from automobiles and associated parking lots, emissions and development.

A great Mountain Transportation system would greatly reduce human impact in the canyons, make Utah exclusive in the country, bolster the ski and tourism industry, provide development opportunities in the valley, and better serve both local residents and out-of-state skiers.

Most Cottonwood Canyons skiers, at one time or another, have gotten stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on snowy, narrow, slick canyon roads, driving either to or from the ski resorts. It’s white-knuckle, scary driving, and parking is often hard to find.

Imagine hopping on public transit anywhere across the Wasatch Front, socializing with friends, or working on a WiFi-connected laptop, and be skiing at your favorite resort (or hiking or fishing in the summer) within an hour, no matter the weather conditions.

Imagine you’re an avid skier from Los Angeles. Imagine that you could fly to Salt Lake City in little more than an hour, hop on a train at the airport, with your luggage and ski equipment, and ride public transit to ski lifts — without having to rent a car, negotiate snowy roads, or worry about safety.

Mountain Transportation would be a game-changer for Utah. Our ski resorts would be distinctive in the nation, on par with exclusive European resorts that are accessible by train. It would give Utah’s ski industry an enormous competitive advantage, especially against Denver, where it takes half a day to get from the airport to the ski resorts. This opportunity is significant enough that the Salt Lake Chamber’s Mobility Coalition, of which I am a member, has made Mountain Transportation a priority issue.

But this is about much more than just transportation, skiing and economic development. It’s also about saving our canyons, preventing degradation and preserving our quality of life. Good Mountain Transportation would support a diversity of recreation uses, minimize noise, preserve viewshed, improve air quality and reduce wildlife habitat impacts. These canyons are important watershed, supplying drinking water to more than half a million people.

The Wasatch Front population will increase by more than 1 million people over the next 30 years. Planners say current growth in vehicle traffic in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons is simply unsustainable. Travel restrictions will need to be imposed or fees charged to enter the canyons. Weekend daily vehicle trips are expected to increase to 16,000 in Little Cottonwood Canyon alone by 2030.

Some of the benefits of an innovative Mountain Transportation system include:

· Future development (hotels, restaurants, etc.) could be placed mostly in the valley cities, in some cases at the mouth of canyons, with easy transit access to the canyons.

· The number of people enjoying the resorts could be increased without increasing parking lots, hotels, or development in the canyons.

· Safety would be dramatically improved. People are frightened of driving the narrow roads. In heavy snow, traffic can be bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go. It’s white-knuckle driving.

· A great Mountain Transportation system would improve Utah’s position in the pursuit of future Winter Games.

· The region would be positioned as a year-round world-class recreation/resort destination.

· Patrons could better enjoy the canyons, and mountain recreation, while more easily taking advantage of downtown dining, entertainment and hotels.

· Real estate and land values at the mouths of the canyons would improve.

· Reliable, inexpensive, transportation would be available for resort workers, who wouldn’t need to live at the expensive resorts.

Clearly, Mountain Transportation will be expensive. But sharing the costs among all the interested industries, businesses and entities make it possible. Consider the many possible participants: cities, counties, airport, developers, ski industry, Forest Service, environmental groups, commuters, Utah Transit Authority, UDOT, and recreation enthusiasts.

It is possible that Mountain Transportation would be approached as a public/private partnership, with private stakeholders taking a share of risk, providing at least part of the financing, and perhaps even operating the system.

Obviously, myriad questions remain to be answered. But that’s why all the stakeholders should engage in a discussion now, and begin environmental, engineering, and financing studies to see what’s feasible and what the scope should be. We need to start now, because in 10 years the canyons will be in trouble and/or major traffic restrictions will be imposed.

We love our mountains. Let’s find ways to continue to enjoy them without loving them to death.

Streetcar line to boost Sugar House economy

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The new UTA Street Car system is in the testing phase in Sugar House and businesses located near the line are anxious to benefit from increased foot traffic.

Last night, KSL’s Andrew Adams looked at the anticipated impact of the street car line, which is scheduled to open Dec. 8.

You can find KSL’s story here.

Chamber president reaffirms commitment to transportation

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

To strengthen the state economy, Utah must find a way to bridge the funding gap in the Unified 2040 Transportation Plan. That was the message delivered by Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie to the Legislative Transportation Interim Committee today.

“Utah really does need disciplined investments to address the critical transportation issues our state is and will face as our community continues to grow,” said Beattie.

Beattie says Utah finds itself with an “amazing document,” the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. He says the key word is “unified.”

“The Salt Lake Chamber believes any funding proposal should recognize this disciplined and collaborative approach embodied by this unified plan,” said Beattie. “This unified funding approach should take into account the future needs of not only local roads, but also our state roads and transit needs.”

The Salt Lake Chamber’s Utah Transportation Coalition is working with key stakeholders to develop a five-year funding proposal that would balance the disciplined investments that our local roads and highways desperately need, provide for the capacity to accommodate future growth and bolster the amazing investments our community has already made in transit.

“We believe this funding must be transparent and stable, keep up with inflation, and be borne largely by users,” said Beattie.

Beattie re-emphasized that the Utah Transportation Coalition looks forward to working with the Legislature to ensure that we continue to make the disciplined and balanced investments in our transportation system to enable our community to prosper, economy to grow and to improve the quality of life for every Utahn.

Transportation investment could add 183,000 jobs to Utah’s economy

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was written by Gaylen Webb for EDCUtah and appeared in the Utah Pulse on Oct. 8, 2013. 

A recent study by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston shows Utah could nearly double its return of investment on the state’s transportation infrastructure by 2040. Simply put: for every dollar spent on transportation infrastructure, the state could turn around an ROI of $1.94.

“Anytime you can trade someone $1 for $1.94, you make that trade,” says Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lane Beattie.

According to the study, which can be read here, if state and local governments and transportation agencies fully implement Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan 2011-2040, the result will be a dramatic and positive economic impact over the next three decades. In fact, if the Unified Transportation plan is fully funded, the state would see a return on investment of nearly 183,000 new jobs created in Utah by 2040. Those would include 55,000 construction jobs and more than 91,000 other jobs created by improvements in transportation performance. Another 17,000 jobs would be created by enhanced access to markets for Utah firms, and more than 19,000 jobs would be added by new businesses attracted to Utah because of improved transportation conditions.

“If you look at the sheer numbers, the outcome is pretty impressive,” says Marty Carpenter, executive vice president of communication at the Salt Lake Chamber. The study projects the state would experience:

  • $130.5 billion in additional household income
  • $183.6 billion in additional gross domestic product
  • $22 billion in additional tax revenues from economic growth

As Beattie points out, Utah would receive an estimated return on investment of $1.94 in non-construction GDP gain per $1 invested in transportation infrastructure. That is based on the analysis of private sector transportation costs that can be saved if the Unified Transportation Plan is implemented as envisioned. The comprehensive plan, which can be read here, has four strategic goals: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety and strengthen the economy.

“The Utah Unified Transportation Plan is really quite detailed,” says Carpenter. “It covers everything from smaller roads, bike paths and big rail projects–all of the things we should look at doing in order to have the transportation infrastructure that will support the population growth we can expect.”

The Economic Development Research Group’s study was commissioned by the Utah Transportation Coalition, a group started by the Salt Lake Chamber in 2012 to bring transportation stakeholders together with businesses that recognize the impact transportation infrastructure will have on their long-term ability to succeed. Carpenter says the coalition is working with elected officials, stakeholders and other businesses to help them understand there is a gap between the funds the state has committed for transportation infrastructure, recognize what is needed to fully fund the Unified Transportation Plan and to help them find ways to close the gap.

Utah currently has about $43 billion committed toward transportation infrastructure between now and 2040, when the Unified Transportation Plan would be finished. But, he says, a total of $54.7 billion is needed to create a transportation system that will allow Utah’s economy to reach its full potential.

“Our current funding leaves us a shortfall of $11.3 billion–the gap between what we need to have to maximize our return on investment and what we actually have planned,” he explains. “Based upon the study, if we can come up with that additional $11.3 billion, we get an extra 182,000-plus jobs created by 2040. Seventy percent of those jobs are attributable to improved transportation performance, while 30 percent are from construction spending.”

This isn’t the first time the Salt Lake Chamber has taken an active role in pushing for funds to improve Utah’s transportation infrastructure. The Chamber played a critical role in the passage of Proposition 3 in 2006, which accelerated the construction of the Mountain View Corridor and helped fund five TRAX light rail projects in Salt Lake County and the FrontRunner commuter rail project from the Intermodal Hub in Salt Lake into Utah County.

“As a business association, we recognize that the long-term economic strength of our state depends on our ability to maintain and continue to build a strong transportation infrastructure, particularly because we know our population is going to double in the next 30 years,” says Carpenter. “With that knowledge comes the responsibility to speak today about what the congestion could look like and what we can do about it. We must work today to make sure gridlock doesn’t happen.”

Utah is currently in a great position, he adds, because the state has invested well over the past decade and is ahead of the curve on transportation. Over the past 10 years strong partnerships have been forged, along with a strong understanding of the importance of transportation infrastructure. Nonetheless, without adequately funding the Unified Transportation Plan, Utahns can expect increased transportation stress and continued air quality problems as the population grows to an anticipated 3 million people along the Wasatch Front over the next three decades.

While adding more roads is only part of the transportation plan, Carpenter says it would be non sequitur for some people to connect additional roads with improved air quality. “You are going to have people in cars regardless,” he says. “Giving them more transportation options is essential, but so is keeping them from sitting in congestion. Cars sitting on over-crowded roads are still burning fuel and putting emissions in the air. If we keep cars and trucks moving as efficiently as possible, it saves commuters and businesses money and reduces the amount of emissions they put in the air.”

Carpenter says federal funding is declining as they work toward the $11.3 billion shortfall in transportation investment, but the study lays out a variety of alternative concepts. The Transportation Coalition, he notes, hasn’t settled on one particular mechanism. “We are more interested in showing the Legislature a number of options they have and to give our best counsel as to what those options will entail,” he says. “Ultimately, I am sure as that field of options narrows we’ll take a position, but at this point that is preliminary. It is more important to help lawmakers understand the issues we face, see what their options are, and present them with good information about the path forward.”

Chamber applauds SLC-UTA programs to increase transit ridership

Friday, October 4th, 2013

This morning, the Salt Lake Chamber took part in a news conference to announce a program to help Salt Lake City residents take advantage of transit opportunities. The program would increase the number of riders, provide reduced fare and have an impact in several important policy areas to strengthen our economy.

Chamber Executive Vice President Marty Carpenter told reporters there are two things the business community appreciates: when a great deal comes together so everyone wins and maximization of the return on an investment.

He says this agreement between SLC and UTA will further increase already strong ridership and will help more SLC residents utilize a world class transportation system.

As for maximizing ROI… that usually makes people think of the bottom line dollar amount–the profit. But that’s not always the case. The return on our investment in our transit system is greater than that, touching transportation (relieving pressure on our roads), energy (reducing our energy consumption), air quality (fewer tailpipes means cleaner air), economic development (preserving our natural beauty that attracts top talent and businesses from around the country) all while improving our health, to help contain the cost of health care.

It’s a winning deal for everyone.

The Chamber applauds Mayor Becker for his leadership and UTA for constantly finding new ways to run the nation’s best transit authority.

Here’s the official news release from the Mayor’s Office.

Mayor Proposes New Residential Transit Pass Program to Address Air Quality

SALT LAKE CITY – On Friday, Oct. 4, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announced a fresh solution to help improve air quality – a new type of transit pass that may soon be available to Salt Lake City residents, helping minimize the number of car trips that contribute to poor air conditions.

Mayor Becker proposed an innovative partnership with Utah Transit Authority to offer the new transit pass option. Under the plan, Salt Lake City residents would be eligible to purchase a one-year transit pass for $360. Residents could pay all at once or in 12 installments of $30/month, charged to their utility bill. This would be the first pass to be offered to municipal residents as a group, although the plan is modeled after similar bulk pass programs offered by UTA.

The purpose of the pass is to incentivize use of mass transit and improve air quality. Studies show residents are more likely to utilize mass transit when they are pass-holders. The pass would be good for UTA’s regular bus, TRAX and FrontRunner services. In just six round trips per month, residents could break even on their investment. There would be no limit on the number of passes purchased per household.

Mayor Becker was joined for the announcement by Councilman Stan Penfold, the City Council sponsor of the proposal; Utah Transit Authority General Manager Michael Allegra; Breathe Utah Executive Director Erin Mendenhall; Salt Lake Chamber Executive Vice President of Communication Marty Carpenter and other community leaders. Attendees lauded the program as an important step toward creating sustainable solutions to Salt Lake City’s air quality challenges.

The residential pass is proposed as a one-year pilot program and, if approved by the City Council, is expected to launch in early 2014. UTA expects that up to 6,000 passes could be sold.