Public comment sought on $1.9 billion regional transportation plan

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.

Long-term plan

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.

Morning traffic on Bluff Street, St. George, Utah, April 15, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Morning traffic on Bluff Street, St. George, Utah, April 15, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“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.

Roadwork sign at the entrance of Indian Hills Drive, St. George, Utah, April 15, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Roadwork sign at the entrance of Indian Hills Drive, St. George, Utah, April 15, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

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.

Biker putting their bike on the front of a SunTran bus, St. George, Utah, undated | Image courtesy of Dixie Regional Travel Expo, St. George News
SunTran rider putting a bicycle on the front of a bus, St. George, Utah, undated | Image courtesy of Dixie Regional Travel Expo, St. George News

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.

Air quality

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.

Public input

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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Twitter: @MoriKessler

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  • DesertBill April 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for making this available. Although I will need more time to thoroughly read and digest this information, from a quick scan, it looks well researched and presented. When I compare the benefit in reduced driving time to the $0.05 per gallon increase in gas tax, I will gladly pay it.

    BTW, I may be reading it wrong, but it would appear to me that Exhibit 11 “Cost to Benefit Ratio” for $30/hr (2.80) should read “Benefit to Cost Ratio” – since it means that there is $2.80 of benefit for every dollar of cost.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic April 17, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Thank you in return, Desert Bill, for investing the time to review this. I bet you could make your suggestion on Benefit to Cost Ratio by comment to Myron Lee via the Five County Association of Governments Office at 435-673-3548. Let us know what you find out?
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

  • Bender April 17, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    “When I compare the benefit in reduced driving time to the $0.05 per gallon increase in gas tax, I will gladly pay it.”
    Hear, hear. Infrastructure costs money and unless we want to devolve into a third-world libertarian dystopia, the “gubmit’s” gotta collect taxes and occasionally raise them to stay current with inflation and rising costs.

  • Free Parking April 17, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Yep sounds good to me… get er done

  • beacon April 18, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Citizens should look into the real details of this 70-page plan before just buying into it as a viable plan for our community. There are many contradictions if one really studies the plan. Also, regarding the Bluff Street project, citizens should listen to the discussion about the project on

  • wilbur April 18, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Absolutely. Let’s bulldoze some more highways through the desert turtle preserve so the developers can shack more view homes and golf courses up there. Makes good sense to me, as we all need to drive from Winchester Hills over to Hurricane on a daily basis.

    • BIG GUY April 18, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      >The tortoise preserve is protected by Federal legislation. No homes, golf courses or commercial buildings will be built there without an act of Congress (literally). UDOT will need to get Federal permission to build the Northern Corridor through the preserve, more likely but not assured.
      >The Northern Corridor will not run from Winchester Hills. It will run from near the earthen dam beside the Red Hills Parkway to the north side of Washington and then to I-15 Exit 13.
      >The areas west and north of St. George are expected to grow rapidly. Drivers in those areas wanting to go north on I-15 or returning from the north would be diverted from the very busy Exit 8 (St. George Blvd.) and Exit 10 (Green Springs), easing congestion there.

    • Free Parking April 18, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Yep sounds good to me. Get er done… Btw where’s Mr Ed.?

  • beacon April 19, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Citizens should study the maps that accompany the DixieMPO draft transportation plan. The maps show that the population growth and employment will be focused to the south of I-15. Should we as taxpayers absorb the cost of the Northern Corridor (Washington Parkway) through the Reserve when there’s minimal benefit? Also, the Washington Parkway Cost/Benefit Study done several years ago clearly states that the road will not alleviate the congestion on other major roads. Talk about throwing away good money just to serve a few citizens! People need to study the 70-page report for the real details.

  • wilbur April 19, 2015 at 10:57 am

    (someone underestimates the power of greedy developers and their outstreched palm enablers)

  • Free Parking April 19, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Yep let’s get to it I’m all for it

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