The Spanish Fork City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve revisions to the city’s Transportation Master Plan that include improving the trail system and installing roundabouts to reduce traffic on crowded city roads.
City officials prepared the transportation plan revisions in order to “provide improvement recommendations that will accommodate the City’s growth and maintain the current level of service,” Spanish Fork Public Works Director Chris Thompson wrote in a memo released Sept. 30.
The plan includes a “completed assessment of existing roadway classifications and level of service” and recommendations for “roadway functional classifications, number of lanes, intersection improvements, and right-of-way required to accommodate future traffic in the year 2050.”
Additionally, the revisions include recommendations for “alternative modes of transportation throughout the City including bike lanes, shared use trails, car pooling, park-and-ride lots, local Utah Transit Authority (UTA) bus routes, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail transit,” according to the memo.
“As the City grows and develops, alternative transportation elements such as public transit and bicycle/pedestrian facilities will play an increasing role in the overall transportation system,” according to an executive summary of the transportation plan.
The city plans to develop 0.8 miles of trail to add to the city’s already-existing 21.1 miles of trail, 0.7-mile extension of the Spanish Oaks Trail and a 0.1-mile extension of the Dripping Rock Trail, which are both located near the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon.
The recommendations are based on projections showing that Spanish Fork’s total population — which was 42,215 in 2019 — will reach 88,626 by 2050, which would significantly increase traffic demands.
“Regardless of improvements or enhancements to alternative transportation modes, private single-occupant vehicles will remain as the predominant form of transportation in Spanish Fork City for the foreseeable future,” the summary read. “As such, most of the recommended improvements involve roadway infrastructure that is anticipated to accommodate future vehicular traffic demand projects and maintain acceptable operating conditions.”
Among the ways to address Spanish Fork’s existing transportation problems is by constructing a raised median, bike lanes and a low-impact development drainage system on Main Street to “enhance traffic flow and improve safety.”
“The raised median will remove dangerous turn movements, decrease delay during peak traffic times, and improve safety,” according to the plan.
Thompson told the city council on Tuesday that “continuous-flow intersections,” such as roundabouts, could be a “key part” of how planning officials can “make the roads safer and have them flow better,” adding that “research shows how much safer continuous intersections like roundabouts are.”
“And the reason being that they only have conflict with traffic coming from one direction,” the public works director said. “And that traffic is coming at an average of around 17 miles an hour or less. And because of that, you have a lot milder accidents. Very few, if any injury accidents. And that creates a much safer environment for residents.”
Thompson noted city planning officials are limited in what they can do to improve road safety and reduce traffic since several of the most dangerous intersections in Spanish Fork are managed by the Utah Department of Transportation.
Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at [email protected] and 801-344-2599.