Utah officials urged to plan for population boom

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A regional planning group told local leaders that Utah’s rapidly growing population could double commute times, ramp up housing costs and amplify air quality problems in the coming decades without careful planning along the Wasatch Front urban core.

Executive Director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council Andrew Gruber warned a crowd of mayors, city council members and other local officials of the looming population boom Tuesday at the Wasatch Choice 2050 + Mayor’s Metro-Solutions Symposium.

Utah’s population is projected to hit more than 5 million by 2050, the Deseret News reported.

"Growth. We keep hearing about it," Gruber said. "It’s this omnipresent issue. We have been growing, we are growing today, we will continue to grow in the future, and we have all that growth occurring here in the Wasatch Front — we’re bounded by the mountains on one side and then the lake and the mountains on the other.

Gruber said local leaders strategically working together to plan for the future and build smarter communities — with more housing options, prioritizing open space and more transit-oriented developments, with a variety of transportation choices.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced the Wasatch Choice for 2050 vision, an initiative to encourage cities and counties to work together to plan for the population boom along the Wasatch Front.

The Wasatch Choice 2050 vision is in draft form, Gruber said, so he’s hoping residents will give input on what they want for their communities.

"If we don’t coordinate with cities and counties, you’ll see wasted tax dollars first and foremost," McAdams said. "You’ll have an investment — maybe a road widening in one city that bottlenecks in the next city."

If cities and counties work to implement the goals of the Wasatch Choice 2050 vision, residents could have access to 57 percent more jobs within 30 minutes of their homes in the next 30 years, Gruber said.

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