Mayors usher in era of cooperation



Davis County Clipper Staff Writers

BOUNTIFUL — The event seemed almost revolutionary: A Bountiful press conference about transportation in which Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was the keynote speaker instead of the object of derision.

Thursday's gathering at Bountiful City Park was called to announce a transportation feasibility study endorsed by six South Davis cities, Davis County Commissioners and Salt Lake City. The study will examine transit needs between Davis and Salt Lake counties, and will offer suggestions to the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

"This is a tremendous partnership," Anderson said. "Davis County leaders and I have been on opposite sides of the fence on some transportation issues, most notably the Legacy Highway," the mayor said. "But there's been little attention given the fact that Salt Lake City and Davis County have agreed enthusiastically on a transit option."

Anderson has been among the most vocal opponents to the Legacy Parkway, even at one time putting his name on a lawsuit meant to squelch the proposed highway. His complaint centered around what damage added traffic from the highway would do to Salt Lake City.

Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson hosted the press conference, telling those gathered that the intersection of 400 North and 200 West was chosen for the press conference because 200 West is the most likely route for a future light rail or bus-rapid transit system through South Davis County.

Anderson spoke of voter support in the 2000 election for the one-quarter-cent sales tax hike, which he said has already been used to purchase 185 miles of right-of-way for commuter rail and the purchase of new buses. He said the probability that commuter rail will come to fruition can be attributed in large part to the support of mayors in south Davis County.

The feasibility study itself will contribute to "a high frequency, high capacity, high quality transit system," Anderson said, adding, "Together, we will work together to identify the best, most robust transit system."

Anderson wants Salt Lake City to contribute $10,000 to the study. The Utah Transit Authority contributed $45,000. The Davis County Council of Governments will give $10,000 and Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, West Bountiful, Centerville and Farmington contributed $35,000.

Each mayor who attended the press conference spoke, sharing how they view the study as another opportunity to band together for the good of the larger community.

Yet it was not Anderson, but Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson, who had microphones, tape recorders and aggressive metropolitan reporters crowding into his face for nearly an hour after the event. Salt Lake City's mayor also credited Johnson with spearheading the creation of the six-city coalition which resulted in rewriting the 2030 transportation plan of the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

The re-examining of the 30-year transportation plan included, for the first time, consideration of an undetermined type of rider-friendly mass transit system connecting South Davis with downtown Salt Lake City.

It was a major coup for the county and Johnson personally. Still, it was just the first step in a long process that Johnson said may take up to 15 years to actually bring something like TRAX or Bus Rapid Transit running from Lagoon to the Delta Center. "It had better not take any longer than that. I want to ride it in my lifetime," quipped Johnson.

"We are holding this event here so everyone can get a feel for the traffic flow. It is one possible route that all six mayors agree is one of the good possibilities," Johnson said.

North Salt Lake Mayor Kay Briggs verbalized what many Davis officials seem reluctant to say. "Salt Lake City is the center of our state, not just the capital. We must have better access to and from it," he said.

"It is high time we start looking at the points of common interests and not our differences or sources of contention," said Farmington Mayor Dave Connors, tackling the sticky issue of Anderson's opposition to the Legacy Parkway head-on. Two other South Davis mayors voiced their support. Missing was any representation from Centerville.

"I'll take their check over their presence at a press conference any day," said Anderson. Centerville City Council members voted to pay their proportionate share of the feasibility study earlier this month.

A four-person contingent from the Utah Transportation Association made it clear that the hard work will only have just begun if the feasibility study indicates adequate ridership, good routes, hubs and stops. The next step, they said, is an Environmental Impact Statement. UTA, and every other agency involved, will likely be exceedingly careful about each detail of the EIS, since questions about the Legacy Parkway EIS resulted in the lawsuit blocking or stalling the highway.

Wilf Sommerkorn, chief administrator for the Davis County Council of Governments, pointed out that a survey conducted a couple of years ago showed 70 percent of Davis County residents in favor of the Legacy Parkway. Seventy percent also said they wanted additional mass transit. "That's not a contradiction," he said. "Both are needed."

Tuesday, September 16, 2003