By Emily Olsen, Dec. 21, 2022, Sanpete Messenger
Sanpete County, Utah
After almost two years of research, coordination and planning with municipal, county, and state officials to meet the present and future needs of Sanpete’s growing communities, the Sanpete County Commission approved its Transportation Master Plan during the Dec. 6 commission meeting.
“We are delighted that it’s here,” said Gene Jacobson, chair of the Sanpete County Planning Commission. “This will really help us.”
The complicated document, prepared by Jones and DeMille Engineering, utilizes current municipal planning industry principals that many other Utah counties are already utilizing to formalize and provide the same standards for the process of reviewing, planning and constructing roads to support all newly proposed subdivisions.
“Basically, all this is going to do is put us in line with everybody around us,” said Tom Seely, administrator of the Sanpete County Road & Weed Department. “It just gives us some hard guidelines to stick to, rather than saying ‘um,’ ‘I think,’ or ‘maybe.”
The document also refers to the Sanpete County General Plan to acknowledge the county’s unique growth and development priorities.
“We have accommodated growth responsibly by integrating new development in a way that respects the environment, supports county values, considers long‐term sustainability, and follows
available infrastructure,” states the General Plan, which was updated in 2020. “To help achieve this goal, we encourage growth within corporate limits or rely on master‐planned communities. We also require adequate public infrastructure, use conservation design, and use sustainable building techniques. We also plan for the use and development of our natural resources. As a result, residents can choose from a wide range of education, retail, employment, recreation, and housing opportunities.”
From 2010 to 2020, Sanpete County grew at a rate of 2.50 percent, which is faster than the state average at 2.39 percent. Subdivisions of all sizes are getting built throughout the county, which are quickly changing transportation patterns.
“Ongoing growth and development in the county is creating an increase in traffic demands on the roadway network,” the new plan states. “Transportation facilities not designed to accommodate the increase in traffic volumes can create safety problems, congestion, and delay for motorized and non-motorized travel.
“In order to preserve the unique character in Sanpete County and build a stronger economy,” the plan continues, “proactive planning of the transportation network is essential.”
In his presentation to the Commissioners, Jacobson highlighted a few areas of interest in the new Transportation Master Plan, including the use of average daily traffic counts (ADTs); the use of transportation impact studies (TISs); asset management; road classifications; and cross sections.
Average Daily Traffic Counts (ADTs) are a formal count of the number of cars that travel on a specified road using a small rubber tube that is placed across the road for a period. For example, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) assigns 10 ADTs per one residential home. (Commercial properties and apartments are measured differently.)
Transportation Impact Studies (TISs)―If a proposed development includes 30 homes or more, a transportation impact study (TIS) performed by an engineer will be required to assess the traffic needs of roads surrounding the proposed community, which will determine road classifications that specify things road widths and whether turning lanes will be needed, for example.
Asset Management―The plan is also designed to stretch the limited county funding that’s available for road maintenance. For example, it places resurfacing county roads on a three-year cycle to maintain road quality and reduce the frequency of reconstruction.
Road Classification―Previously, the county had Class A, B and D road classifications, but the new plan provides additional specifications. State roads include principal arterials, minor arterials and major collectors. Named after blood circulation in the human body, these roads are maintained by the state. Minor collectors, recreational roads, local streets, and low-volume local streets.
Cross Sections―In coordination with road classification, cross sections specify street design elements needed in particular situations, such as pavement surface type, cross slope, lane widths, shoulders, curbs, sidewalks, medians, and residential driveway access points.
The Transportation Master Plan is designed to assess the roadway needs of Sanpete and to preserve future corridors and right-of-ways to facilitate the anticipated traffic demand and growth. Other areas of focus in the plan include safety, mobility, access management and future land use.
Safety―For example,the angles of newly designed intersections will provide the best visibility for drivers coming from all directions.
Mobility―Considers motorized and nonmotorized vehicles, as well as pedestrians, that must simultaneously utilize the same streets.
Future Land Use―If a developer is proposing to build in an area where additional growth is anticipated in the next few years, for example, the County Commission may agree to approve a subdivision if the developers are willing to build both sides of an access road instead of their required side in exchange for a reduced impact fee, Jacobson said.
Access Management―Gives the County Commission more authority and some discretion to coordinate with surrounding municipalities and landowners in the selection of land strips chosen to build access roads to connect new subdivisions to arterial roads in the community.
The plan also identifies when the county should coordinate with UDOT when arterial state roads need to, for example, add a turning lane and a pull-out lane at an intersection experiencing an increased traffic flow.
“Any time you put a development in, you are going to affect traffic that already exists,” Jacobson explained. Adding an access point and maintaining good flow “fight against each other” and require road modification to remedy bottlenecks.
The county’s new Transportation Master Plan, which is meant to set policy, is the first of two county road planning documents. The second, the Road Construction and Design Manual, is still being fine-tuned with Jones & DeMille Engineering to verify all changes made are compliant with the Utah State Code. It will specify details, such as required widths for different road classifications, Jacobson said.
The two documents are intended to fit “like a glove,” he said.
“We have spent most of our time making sure that [the Transportation Master Plan] will match [the other] and there won’t be any conflicts among them,” Jacobson said. He has also worked with Jones & DeMille Engineering to design it as a working document to allow for amending a section without having to reapprove the whole document and its corresponding manual.
The Planning Commission will be holding a working meeting in January to review the Road Construction and Design Manual, and as always, will be open to the public, Jacobson said.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback from a lot of people, and it’s all been good.”
Electronic access to the Transportation Master Plan is available upon request through the Sanpete County Planning and Zoning Office.