Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Network of trails will connect Utahns throughout the state

Nov 07, 2022 02:18PM ● By Becky Ginos

Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Executive Director Carlos Braceras (left) joins Gov. Spencer J. Cox at the south trailhead on Legacy Parkway to talk to reporters about their vision to build a new trail system that would reach across the state. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

WOODS CROSS—Utah is known for its outdoor recreation and trails but not all of them are easily accessible. Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Executive Director Carlos Braceras announced a vision last week to build a network of trails that would connect Utahns to their destinations and communities throughout the state. 

“This will enhance the quality of life for every Utahn,” said Cox. “Utah is a vibrant place bursting with amenities. We know why people live here – it's beautiful. We have to sustain the growth system so that we can provide clean air and clean water. We’re looking for state funding to connect trails for people of all abilities. 

A sense of community is important, he said. “We’ve heard from residents that they want more trails. This is who we are. This is our brand. We own the outdoor space. We want people to be able to recreate safely. Interacting makes us healthier and happier.”

Cox said he sat down with state department heads and gave them a challenge to think big. “I asked them to come up with a proposal for how we can use our resources and talents to make the state a better place.”

The interstate system (I-15) was a bold move to connect the highways, said Cox. “This would be our interstate trail system so that you can go anywhere in Utah and not get on a roadway.”

“The governor gave us a challenge and we didn’t know how far to go with it,” said Braceras. “We hear people want to have community identity and perspective. We’re bringing people together. Wellbeing is an issue.”

Braceras said they’ve been working with communities and the legislature. “The legislature will make the decision about how it can be done and how to fund it. Money is always the biggest hurdle so we need to make it a priority for people in the legislature.”

“First we’ll connect lower income communities,” said Cox. “It’s very important there is physical access. It will be built so that people of all abilities can get on them.”

The transportation committee addresses all users, Braceras said. “They should be safe on all transportation systems. Transportation is the most important for the future as we double in growth. If people can walk or bike they’re more likely to use transportation.”

For far too long transportation has been put into a bucket, Cox said. “Biking, walking, roads, etc. They all go together. We have to start asking the question of access for cars, bikes and walking. We have to look at it more holistically than in the past.”

“We’re planning what our priorities are,” said Braceras. “We’re working from the bottom up to see where the gaps are and where the pieces are for communities. We’ll start with ways to get more involved and then we bake the recipe.”

 This is long term, he said. “It may not be done in our lifetime.”

Braceras said they are not proposing using eminent domain. “It’s straight line, eminent domain is not happening. Any effort like this requires acquisition of private property but we’ll pay fair market price for it. With an eminent domain you’re taking it from an unwilling seller and we’re not going to do that. That’s an important part of this.”

“We want to see people get out on these paved trails,” said Cox. “We want bikers, older people, younger people and moms with strollers. We don’t have to sell this. People want this.”

Cox said this project is going to the top of his vision list. “We are very serious about this. We’re good at building roads. People have said ‘you can’t do this’ but we’ve done it anyway. It’s a huge undertaking and a heavy lift but we’re serious about moving forward. Our citizens want this – they demand this.”

Once funding is in place, Braceras said they would put a state transportation plan together. “We’ll start the first project as soon as possible with a 2023/24 timeline.”

“I’m so excited about this,” said Cox. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican you don’t know that when you’re out walking. There will be better health and mental health outcomes and less congestion on the roads. We want to have a sustainable quality of life for generations to come.”λ