U community questions campus development

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

U neighbors, alumni and students questioned the overall impact of new campus development projects on the environment, global warming and the flow of traffic in the neighborhoods surrounding the university at a community forum held Thursday night.

At the meeting held at the Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower, U administrators and planners presented plans for 10 large-scale construction projects scheduled for upcoming years.

The largest concern shared by U neighbors was the issue of sustainability. Ed Firmage Jr., a U alumnus and Salt Lake City resident, questioned whether the U could go ahead with the new construction projects in good conscience if closer attention is not paid to the environmental impact.

“I see a great deal of construction and nothing is said about powering that by anything other than our coal-based power grid,” Firmage said. “My intent is to make this lack of a renewable energy commitment an issue big-time with the administration.”

Mike Perez, associate vice president for facilities management, said many of the renovations and new structures are desperately needed to insure continued quality education and research.

“We’re cramped,” Perez said. “We are at the point when we need to make decisions that are best for us, the environment and the broader community.”

The Utah Legislature has yet to approve funding for any of the projects presented at the forum. During the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers will decide whether or not to allocate funding for these building projects.

The congestion of the roads surrounding the intersection of Sunnyside Avenue and Foothill Boulevard has been a long-standing problem for Research Park tenants and U neighbors.

Norm Chambers, associate vice president of auxiliary services, presented the recommendations of a local transportation study for Foothill. Chambers said the study outlined three main construction projects to facilitate traffic in that area: expanded public transit service, a joint express bus and carpool lane and the addition of three left-hand turning lanes at the intersection of Sunnyside and Foothill.

Residents of the Foothill and Sunnyside neighborhoods expressed doubt that more construction will solve traffic congestion and recommended that the U do more to encourage the use of public transit. Chambers explained that the public transit system in the area might be the key.

TRAX, the Utah Transit Authority’s lightrail system, does not service Research Park.

“When people convert to riding TRAX, regardless of gas prices, they stick with it,” Chambers said. “When gas prices were high, the buses (that service Research Park and the surrounding neighborhoods) were full. On the buses, people will ride when it’s best for them and $4 was that.”

The study also reported that Foothill is not a safe road for bicyclists and recommended sidewalk expansion for pedestrian safety.

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John Stafford

Community members and U students gathered at Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower on Thursday to discuss proposed campus development projects. Residents expressed concerns about road congestion and public transit.