If Salt Lake City were held to the same standards as cigarette manufacturers, there would be warning signs on its inbound roads: "Chaos Ahead!" and "Allow yourself an extra four hours!" Residents joke that the fastest way to get from suburban Salt Lake to the Salt Lake International Airport is to drive to Denver and then fly back.
The area had problems
entering 1997. Healthy growth, a term some see as oxymoronic, had
sent the metro area spreading over agricultural land, engulfing
small towns. At higher elevations, in the foothills and canyons of
the Wasatch Range, higher-income folks were building new homes,
thankful that they were looking down at and not living in the smog
Everything got worse last
summer, when work began in earnest for the 2002 Winter Olympics. An
entire urban stretch of Interstate highway is now being torn up;
light rail is being built; surface streets are being redone. All
the while, a slew of construction projects related to the Olympics
- skating arenas, a stadium for the opening ceremonies - jam the
streets with construction workers and delivery
The reflexive reaction to sprawl at the
edges and chaos at the center is that Salt Lake City and its
suburbs lack planning.
The opposite is true. The
articles here show that the sprawl, construction and chaos were
carefully, precisely planned. Planning brought high-tech and other
industries to Salt Lake in the late 1980s, and set off the first
spurt of growth. And more planning then overlaid the Winter
Olympics on an area already stressed.
reaction, some in the state are now calling for a different kind of
planning - ameliorative planning - to soften the harsh impacts the
state's political and moneyed elite have visited upon the state.
They are also asking the powerful Utahns who "planned" the present
situation, much of it with the help of tax dollars, to behave in a
less secretive and high-handed way.
command show no signs of relinquishing power. Why should they? They
worked for more than a decade to set Utah on a path that will keep
their political and economic interests dominant into the next
But the game is not over. Well in the
lead are those who wish to see the Salt Lake Valley filled with
housing and businesses, and to see the state's relatively modest
ski resorts expand to rival Vail and Aspen, whatever it does to the
quality of life. But now, thanks to the rush to prepare for the
Olympics, it is no longer just Utah's environmentalists who
understand Utah's dominant political and economic game. The four
years leading up to the Olympics will be more interesting, and may
even be more competitive, than the two weeks of sliding and gliding
in February 2002. Stories begin on page 8.