Population, Travel and Economic Trends in Utah
Utah’s diverse economy relies on significant employment in mining, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, information technology, finance and petroleum production.
From 1990 to 2013, Utah’s population increased by 68 percent, from approximately 1.8 million to approximately 2.9 million. Utah’s population is expected to increase to approximately 4.4 million by 2030.
The continued increase in population has resulted in significant increases in vehicle travel in Utah. From 1990 to 2013, annual vehicle-miles-of-travel (VMT) in the state increased by 84 percent, from approximately 14.6 billion VMT to 27 billion VMT. This was the second highest increase in the nation during this timeframe. Based on travel and population trends, TRIP estimates that vehicle travel in Utah will increase another 40 percent by 2030.
Condition and Funding Needs of Utah’s Surface Transportation System
Utah is served by a system of 45,124 miles of roads and 2,946 bridges. This system is maintained by local, state and federal governments and carries 27 billion vehicle miles of travel each year.
Utah’s roads, highways and bridges have some deficiencies. Eight percent of Utah’s major urban state and locally maintained roads and highways have pavements in poor condition. Fifty-one percent of the state’s urban roads are rated as either mediocre or fair and the remaining 41 percent are rated in good condition. Nine percent of Utah’s 20 major rural state and locally maintained roads and highways have pavements in poor condition. Fifty-four percent of the state’s rural roads are rated as either mediocre or fair and the remaining 37 percent are rated in good condition. Roads rated poor may show signs of deterioration, including rutting, cracks and potholes. In some cases, poor roads can be resurfaced but often are too deteriorated and must be reconstructed. Most pavements in mediocre condition can be repaired by resurfacing, but some may need more extensive reconstruction to return them to good condition.
Pavement failure is caused by a combination of traffic, moisture and climate. Moisture often works its way into road surfaces and the materials that form the road’s foundation. Road surfaces at intersections are even more prone to deterioration because the slow-moving or standing loads occurring at these sites subject the pavement to higher levels of stress. It is critical that roads are fixed before they require major repairs because reconstructing roads costs approximately four times more than resurfacing them.
As Utah’s roads and highways continue to age, they will reach a point where routine paving and maintenance will not be adequate to keep pavement surfaces in good condition and costly reconstruction of the roadway and its underlying surfaces will become necessary.
The increase in vehicle travel and additional freight movement has placed additional stress on the state’s roads, making timely roadway improvements and preservation even more critical. Investing in lower-cost, routine roadway repairs and preservation can extend the life of Utah’s roadways and prevent or postpone more costly repairs and reconstruction.
In 2014, three percent of Utah’s bridges were rated structurally deficient because they are in need of repair or replacement. Another eleven percent of the state’s bridges were rated as functionally obsolete in 2014 because they do not meet modern design standards.
According to Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan, the state will need a total of $70.1 billion over the next 30 years to fund needed highway and transit maintenance, operations, preservation and capacity expansions. However, during that time, only $43.4 billion will be available from current revenue sources, leaving a funding gap which includes $11.3 billion in prioritized transportation improvements that remain unfunded over the next 30 years.
Founded in 1971, TRIP ® of Washington, DC, is a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues. TRIP is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers; businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction; labor unions; and organizations concerned with efficient and safe surface transportation.