Serious Problems with our Growth Policies:

The Fatal Flaws Revealed by the Northern Corridor

Conserve Southwest Utah (CSU) filed a lawsuit last week to stop the Northern Corridor Highway (NCH) based on a series of issues we outlined in the June 4 Bulletin. But the problems with the NCH go well beyond legal issues. We believe that there are three underlying problems that undergird the NCH – the fatal flaws of our growth policies. If we are going to triple our population AND protect our quality of life AND give the necessary priority to environmental stewardship, we must fundamentally change policies to look beyond short-term responses for perceived problems.

The three fatal flaws in our growth policies revealed by the Norther Corridor:

Fatal Flaw One: “One solution” thinking. Transportation planning has been fixated for years on a northern “bypass” route through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The NCH is not the only solution to easing east-west traffic flows through St. George. The official traffic analysis reflected in the Environmental Impact Statement (see the clearly shows there are viable options that would avoid serious environmental damage while providing a better solution to traffic flow at lower cost. *  Wise decisions require a thorough evaluation of all alternatives, thinking “outside the box”, and putting a high value on  open space and sensitive, protected public lands.

Fatal Flow 2: Trading Quality of Life for Development.  Our climate and natural environment are among the top reasons people live here, are moving here, and are vacationing here. People are coming here to escape the sprawl and crowding of the metropolitan areas they are leaving. Our growth policies are encouraging sprawl and showing a pattern of invading public lands for roads and development. Wise growth decisions would place a high value on open space, protected lands, and limiting sprawl.

Fatal Flaw 3: Believing the misconception that more roads will create less traffic congestion. Our May 20 Bulletin debunked the idea that more roads equal less traffic. The logic of the Northern Corridor rests on this misconception and reinforces our tendency to think that every traffic problem has a road solution. This will end up ruining Washington County. Wise growth should focus on reducing sprawl and creating communities where we can live, work, and play with many fewer trips across town and the County.

It is time to reverse the decision to pave over the Red Cliffs National Conservation area. We need to not only the reverse the NCH decision but also the flawed policies that led to it. We also need to recognize that the flaws in our growth policies revealed by the NCH influence thinking about transportation, land use, water conservation, and a whole host of related issues. It is time to critically reassess our approach to managing growth and avoid mistakes other cities have already made.

The way we are going about planning for growth is a serious threat to our quality of life and to the climate and environment driving that quality.

Tom Butine is Conserve Southwest Utah’s President and Art Haines is our Vice President.

*  The following sections of the Final Environmental Impact State support these statements: Other better options –  Vol 1, pages ES-9 – 16; that provide better traffic flow –  Vol 3 Appendix J and  tables 4 and 5 on Vol 3 pages 271-2; at a lower cost –  Vol 2, pages 2-3 – 5 .  Also CSU’s issue paper.

To read the full complaint click here.