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Council supports 35 mph speed limit along Wasatch Boulevard

Mar 28, 2022 09:45PM ● By Cassie Goff

Cottonwood Heights would like to see Wasatch Boulevard have more traffic calming measures, including a slower posted speed limit. (Mike Johnson/Cottonwood Heights)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

“City leaders, staff, and residents have expressed their strong belief…to utilize a design speed of 35 mph (along Wasatch Boulevard).”

Early this year when the new Cottonwood Heights City Council discussed their priorities, Wasatch Boulevard was on the top of their list. In thinking through how to better protect and develop the boulevard, the city council brainstormed changes to city documentation. They asked Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson to lead a discussion about amending city documents concerning Wasatch Boulevard.

On Feb. 15, Johnson provided an overview of the Wasatch Boulevard Master Plan, outlined the history of its creation, discussed the current function of the documentation, and provided some of his recommendations.

“If Wasatch was our road we could implement this plan 100% the way we would like it. Obviously, there’s limitations on that because it’s not our road,” Johnson said.

Wasatch Boulevard is technically known as State Road (SR) 210 in many government documents. SR 210 is a state-owned road that stretches 13.62 miles from Fort Union Boulevard into Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Recently, UDOT identified two preferred solutions to address vehicle traffic along the corridor with their Environmental Impact Study. Both of which “will result in an expansion that may result in increased vehicle traffic, higher traffic speeds, and significant increases in the attendant vehicle-caused noise, air pollution, and other adverse impacts,” Cottonwood Heights City Council wrote. 

However, Johnson mentioned that UDOT does directly reference the city’s Master Plan in their documents, including the EIS documents plans.

“There is opportunity for more casual pedestrians and cyclists along the corridor,” Johnson said.

The Wasatch Boulevard Master Plan places emphasis on multiuse transit, user safety, and residential quality of life. Through the plan, Cottonwood Heights envisions Wasatch Boulevard as more of a recreational corridor. 

“The 2.6 miles from Fort Union Boulevard to the High T intersection really must be traffic calm,” said City Councilmember Ellen Birrell.

Even though the Master Plan has only been in effect since July 2019, when it was originally adopted, it has already made quite an impact. It has helped to guide city decisions regarding density, parking, and trail use and alignment. It has helped to guide development decisions addressing public parking. The document has also helped to acquire potential funding, such as recent funding regarding the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. In addition, city staff references the document almost daily to answer questions from residents.

“We do feel like the plan has worked very effectively the last few years,” Johnson stated.

Since the Master Plan has been working as such an important guiding document for the city, Johnson advised against changing it. He suggested leaving the current Master Plan in place but restating stronger positions on certain elements instead.

The city council agreed with Johnson and asked city staff to draft a resolution focusing primarily on lowering the speed limit along the corridor.

“I want this resolution to focus on the speed of Wasatch Boulevard,” said Mayor Mike Weichers.

On March 3, the council considered a resolution which explicitly expressed written support for lowering the posted speed limit on Wasatch Boulevard to 35 mph.  

The resolution, in part, states, “City leaders, staff, and residents have diligently endeavored to influence UDOT to adopt a design for Wasatch Boulevard…that diminishes, rather than increases, the adverse impacts of SR 210 on the city and its residents by utilizing a design emphasizing slower vehicle speeds, traffic calming, and a greater emphasis on active transportation and recreation (running, walking, bicycling, etc.)

The written resolution also mentions “UDOT officials have stated, in one or more city public meetings, that limiting speeds on SR 210 to 35 mph is a worthy goal.”

“(City Attorney) Shane Topham did a lot of work on this document,” City Manager Tim Tingey said.

Birrell mentioned how UDOT has stated preferences for a large commercial parking garage with their gondola preference, which would be within the boundaries of Cottonwood Heights.

“I am hoping we make a loud and clear proclamation that (UDOTs plans are) not appropriate in a residential area. It will induce traffic and further exacerbate the bottlenecking of cars heading toward the Cottonwood Canyons. These are clearly UDOT’s intentions for our city. It is unnecessary and unacceptable,” Birrell said.

Resolution 2022-16 “Concerning UDOT’s Proposed Re-Design of Wasatch Boulevard” was moved by Birrell, seconded by Councilmember Scott Bracken, and unanimously passed on March 3.