Utah Legislature Urged to Prioritize Community Connectivity and Air Quality Investments on National Transit Equity Day
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Salt Lake City, UT (February 6) — In honor of National Transit Equity Day (February 4), advocates, residents, and the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) have united to call upon the Utah State Legislature to reconsider its funding priorities. This important day underscores the need to address air pollution issues caused by vehicle emissions and promote more equitable investment in alternative transportation methods.
The impact of vehicle emissions on air quality cannot be understated. In 2021, Utah had over 2.6 million registered vehicles, including motorcycles, light passenger vehicles, regular passenger vehicles, and light trucks. With the state’s population expected to reach 4 million by 2033, a surge in the vehicle fleet to an estimated 3.14 million is anticipated. This alarming projection underscores the pressing need for strategic transportation planning that balances the demands of population growth with environmental stewardship. Unfortunately, our current funding landscape disproportionately favors highway expansions and road maintenance, which will result in more cars on our roadways and more air pollution in our communities.
“Expanding highways, like the proposed I-15 project, will result in more vehicles on the road, which in turn will contribute to increased air pollution, even if electric vehicle usage rises. To tackle congestion and environmental challenges effectively, we must prioritize alternative transportation options,” emphasized Melanie Hall, Policy Director at HEAL Utah
Melanie Hall also highlighted the pressing need to invest in public transit, micromobility solutions, and infrastructure for walking and biking. These alternatives are essential not only for reducing traffic congestion but also for mitigating the adverse effects of air pollution on public health.
Community support for these initiatives is evident, with over 400 public comments from residents who would be directly impacted by the proposed highway expansions, as documented in the HEAL Utah report. Additionally, Free Fare February, an initiative by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), has garnered significant support, further underscoring the community’s desire for better transportation investments.
Importantly, the interest in alternative transit solutions is not limited to urban areas alone. Many rural communities have also expressed their support for these initiatives, highlighting the broad statewide demand for improved transportation options.
Despite the clear demand for alternative transit solutions, the current funding landscape disproportionately favors highway expansions and road maintenance. We are calling on the Utah State Legislature to reevaluate funding allocations, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive and sustainable approach to transportation planning.
About HEAL Utah
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen.