Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour: Salt Lake City, Utah

The third in this series.

The “Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour” moves west to Salt Lake City, Utah. I can’t remember the exact first time I traveled to the Beehive State and the Great Salt Lake region in particular, but I’ve been to the city bearing the same name about four times now.

320px-Salt_Lake_City_panorama[1]When I think of Salt Lake City I think of railroading and trains and for good reason. Located not far from there – Promontory Summit – is where on May 10, 1869 the Golden Spike was driven ceremoniously marking the joining of Central Pacific and Union Pacific rails, signifying completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad. The Golden Spike, however, is now housed on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Also notable in the region are the Great Salt Lake, Great Salt Lake Desert and Bonneville Salt Flats where many a land speed record were set and broken. The area is also well known as a place for winter- or snow-related recreational activities and it is where the Mormon Church also has its headquarters. Salt Lake City in Salt Lake County is also the State Capital.

I remember being there in late summer and late winter during different years, of course. And, speaking of winter, it was then and there in 2002 that the Olympic Winter Games were held.

Incidentally, Salt Lake City is no stranger to the Air Quality Matters blog. There are a number of blog posts mentioning the western U.S. metropolis.

The Wasatch and Oquirrh ranges of mountains are quite prominent and sit off to the east and southwest of the city proper, respectively. Interestingly, the street grid consists primarily of easterly-westerly and northerly-southerly running streets. The town is 110.4 square miles in area and as of 2010, had a population of 186,440 people.

The city itself is home to one of this country’s most prolific public transit networks going. Two systems of note are FrontRunner and TRAX. In fact, of these in “Leading from the Front” in the Fall 2011 edition of RAIL, editor Rich Sampson wrote: “As many communities and regions navigate the challenging economic conditions facing the entire country over the past several years, and others questioning their commitment to any forms of new mobility infrastructure, the metropolitan region along Utah’s Wasatch Front mountain range is all the more dedicated to consistently improving its transit network, with its TRAX light-rail and FrontRunner commuter rail systems leading the charge.”

Salt_Lake_City_Utah[1]As a matter of fact, two other areas with this same kind of enthusiasm regarding momentum or movement on the transit-building front in the U.S. west immediately coming to mind, are: Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California.

Just so you are aware, each time I paid a visit the air was clean and visibilities good though I understand that during winters, air pollution can and has a tendency to build. (See: “Updated approach to warn of unhealthy particulate levels draws fire”).

Of the several times that I visited, one of my more memorable recollections is when, during the 1980s, I was driving west on what I am sure was highway 40 near Heber City, Utah. While driving at the posted speed mind you, I was overtaken by not one, not two, but three speeding motorists, and soon thereafter a Utah law enforcement official, sped past who, obviously, was in pursuit of the offending scofflaws. Farther on all three in their cars were stopped. Each had pulled off to the side of the road, all of whom being handed citations – I’m certain not the kind given for meritorious driving, that is, if there is such a thing, but of the traffic variety, all by you know who: the one law enforcement officer who had been in pursuit. Not one to want to make the same error in judgment, by the time I passed them by, I made sure it was at the posted speed.

In case there is a question as to why I recount the specifics of this chance encounter here, it is these sorts of experiences you just don’t forget and for good reason.

Lower image: NASA

– Alan Kandel