Greg Hanscom did an admirable and objective job describing Utah's growing pains and the relative contributions from the 2002 Olympics (HCN, 3/16/98). The only component missing was the reality that more than two-thirds of the growth in Utah comes from within the state due to our propensity for large families. With the highest birthrate in the country and the local desire to stay in Zion, population pressure from the Olympics and immigration pales in comparison.
The games have served as a scapegoat for our recent growth and development problems but have also initiated some progressive and cosmopolitan planning. Utah is using the Olympics limelight to federally fund a light-rail project that local voters refused to fund, and to completely rebuild a dilapidated I-15 that has been ignored for years because of the local share of the cost. Utah consistently spends more federal dollars than it collects, largely because of the low taxable incomes and large system stresses produced by large families. Mike Leavitt, the last of the mythical independent Western cowboy governors and the leader of the national states' rights movement, is promising an "adequate" Olympics unless the feds step in with more money for venues, trains, roads, airports, the environment and all the involved private interests.
Meanwhile, the draconian legislature has refused planning and open-space referendums and has made it difficult for cities to coordinate growth and make development pay for itself. The governor wants to build highways, "and lots of them," and he is currently planning his own personal "Legacy Highway" through wetlands and neighborhoods. Exponential procreation is the problem, urban sprawl is the result, funded, of course, by the rest of the country, in the name of international sport - a two-week-long, $3 billion blip on Utah's horizon.
Park City, Utah