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October 2021

How Subjective Is "Quality Of Life"?
We can all agree "quality of life" is important, though we may all judge by different standards.This month we are learning about an award bestowed by a significant national organization that has come under fire for its definition of "quality of life" regarding a Utah Department of Transportation project.
Welcome back Guest Author Michael S. Ellegood, PE. He has held positions ranging from Project Engineer through Senior Executive in major consulting engineering firms. He joined the public sector as an agency head, ultimately retiring as County Engineer, Public Works Director, and Transportation Director of Maricopa County, Arizona. Currently, Michael serves as Senior Consulting Engineer with E + E LLC.
Michael is providing us with a senior consulting engineer opinion about the recent Washington Post article referring to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) "Quality of Life/Community Development Award." 
A recent article in the Washington Post reported that AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) presented a "Quality of Life/Community Development Award" to the Utah DOT for constructing a 12-lane freeway through the town of Lehi, Utah. Lehi is a rapidly growing city just south of Salt Lake City bisected by I-15.  This award has been criticized in the Washington Post by pundits including the former New York City Transporation Commissioner. 
As a former DOT director for a major urban county and as a Civil Engineer schooled in urban planning and sensitive to the impacts of major public works projects on quality of life, I can certainly understand and relate to the arguments of the critics. A twelve-lane freeway with frontage roads on both sides can do nothing to improve the quality of life, property values, air quality, noise levels, or aesthetics of the bisected community. So, on the surface, it would look like the project deserves the skeptical scorn of the critics.
But there is another aspect to the project that deserves another look. The freeway, I-15, already bisects the Lehi community. Prior to this project, this four-mile segment through Lehi was a huge bottleneck between the cities of Provo to the south and Salt Lake to the north. Moreover, Lehi itself is a growing tech center with traffic generators of its own. Some method of relieving traffic along this commercial and commuter corridor needed to be found. Relocation of the highway was impractical, as I-15 is sandwiched between a major lake to the south and west and the Wasatch Mountain range to the east. Traffic forecasts made the case for the increased lane capacity.
To mitigate some of the impacts, the Utah DOT integrated access to a transit hub and a system of trails, bike paths and pedestrian crossings into the project. Despite these amenities, critics still claim that these additions are "marginal improvement" and decry the scale of the project. They claim that with "climate change, racial injustice, and soaring road deaths, (highway) planners must look beyond marginal improvements" and instead re-think the entire transportation system.
So, will this expanded freeway improve or impair the quality of life of the Lehi residents? Certainly, it will improve traffic flow and probably further enhance economic development -- but what about impacts on air quality? (Note, air quality in Salt Lake City to the north is considered unhealthy, and Lehi's location in a basin with mountains to the east and prevailing west winds will not mitigate the situation). In addition, the traffic noise, the huge barrier that this behemoth project presents and other impacts such as stormwater quality, property values and other deleterious effects are yet to be evaluated.
So, the jury is out and the net result of benefits versus detriments to the Lehi quality of life remains to be seen. That said, this is a choice that the Utah DOT made in consultation with the community of Lehi.
Time will tell. 
What do you think about the impacts of the Lehi transportation project on its residents' quality of life?  We must trust our educated built environment professionals to always have our best interest at heart whether we agree or not. 
As for "The Credential" and the LS Credentialing Services/ staff, "we've got your back" and want to become an integral part of your professional quality of life. To save you precious time and significant cost, let us help you with maintenance and management of both your personal credentials and corporate credentials, too.  Schedule a consultation at 913-608-7880, send us a message, or visit to learn how we may assist you. 
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ASCE Annual Bridges Report Card 2021




 There are more than 617,000 bridges across the United States. Currently, 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old, and 7.5% (46,154) of the nation’s bridges are considered structurally deficient...



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