UPHE supports west side residents in battle against I-15 expansion

UDOT should invest in mass transit improvements rather than encouraging increased fossil fuel pollution in the valley.

Make a comment to UDOT on the expansion here.

UPHE has been a vocal opponent to UDOT’s plan to widen I-15, standing with the many local residents who oppose as well. The plan includes adding lanes to a nearly 20 mile stretch of the highway from Farmington to Salt Lake City.

Residents have expressed concern and confusion at UDOT’s meetings, through public comment, and in a recent Tribune article. “Jamie, said she has attended most of the public meetings related to the I-15 expansion, and still doesn’t feel well-informed about the project — because UDOT’s team, she said, doesn’t provide direct answers to her questions. Because of that, she said, she thinks the proposal could change, and residents on the route would be asked or told to relocate.”

The plan previously entailed the displacement of some residents along the highway. UDOT is now saying that is not the case. Residents living near the highway are already at disproportionate risks though. The American Lung Association’s website states “traffic pollution causes asthma attacks in children and may cause a wide range of other effects including the onset of childhood asthma, impaired lung function, premature death and death from cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular morbidity. The area most affected, they concluded, was roughly the band within 0.2 to 0.3 miles (300 to 500 meters) of the highway.” So even if residents are able to stay in their homes, the expansion will increase the risk of many west side residents. 

Highway expansions have done little to nothing to improve traffic flow in other cities.

UDOT’s stance on the project is that it will reduce pollution by reducing traffic and congestion. UPHE wrote in our comments to UDOT on the expansion, “The phenomenon has now been repeatedly documented, meaning that increasing freeway capacity increases use of the freeway such that over time, often only a short time, the benefit of reduced congestion is eliminated by increased overall use. For example, a 2019 study found “aggregate vehicle miles traveled increase in exact proportion with lane-mileage, and that congestion relief from capacity expansion vanishes within five years of capacity expansion.

UPHE’s comments were quoted in the Tribune article as well, “UDOT cannot dismiss pollution concerns with a response that newer gasoline engines and electrification of the vehicle fleet in the future will significantly reduce freeway-generated pollution.”

Newer engines produce more ultrafine particulate pollution, “the most toxic subset of particulate pollution,” UPHE wrote. The addition of electric vehicles won’t solve the PM2.5 pollution either, as “tire wear, brake pad dust, suspension of road dust and other mechanical friction account for 60% of primary PM 2.5 generated by vehicles. Particulate pollution from tire wear and suspension of road dust increase with the speed of the vehicle, as does fuel consumption. These effects reduce the otherwise health and air quality benefits of reducing congestion.”

Even the asphalt of the road itself is a significant source of pollution. 

Find the Tribune article here.