One of the more depressing things about reading Jane Jacobs is learning how her community rose up to stop massive projects that would have disrupted the city. That’s great for them, but it makes it all the more depressing when our communities along the Wasatch Front do nothing — or, worse, cheer on — massive boondoggles like freeway and interchange expansions.
But that isn’t always the case.
Recently in Layton a group of concerned citizens came together to oppose a proposed highway expansion in their county:
“We don’t want Utah to build a road through Farmington Bay,” Kalt said to the crowd of more than 100, citing the harm to wildlife, the increase in pollution, the cost and the community disruption. “This affects all of us.”
Hundreds of people demonstrated against plans for theWest Davis Corridor, a 24-mile, $600 million highway proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation.
Later, a UDOT spokesman is quoted as saying that the real question is what route the highway will take. I know the individual people at UDOT are well intentioned, but I’m left wondering if it has occurred to them that conventional highways are not the only, or even best, way to move goods and people. Or, as one of the sources in the story puts it,
“This is not smart growth,” Ingwell told the Saturday crowd. “This is stupid growth.”
The entire thing is reminiscent, at least to me, of stories I’ve read about communities actually rising up and stopping destructive mega-projects.
I also wondered why this doesn’t happen more often. The I15 Core project, which widened the freeway, was a massive incentive for more driving. Why didn’t we all protest that? Provo’s Center Street interchange came down like a hammer on west Provo; why wasn’t there more outcry?
One reason is probably that it’s hard for any of us, myself included, to realize that there are alternatives.
But another reason is that it may also be hard to imagine that these projects actually go through our communities; the people in Layton took action when they realized that there was something very real at stake.
However, all of these projects do have a real impact on our communities. A widened freeway, for example, creates larger dead zones on either side that can’t be developed into much. I struggle to envision a scenario in which parts of west Provo recover from the interchange, and that will have lasting, negative repercussions on the entire city.
In other words, we all have something at stake when it comes to the infrastructure decisions that impact communities along the Wasatch Front. In that light, the protest in Layton will hopefully be the first of many aimed at stopping car-centric, anti-human projects.