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AM News Brief: Riverton Road Closed, Salt Lake By The Numbers & Drought Plan Kicks In

12600S_CementPouring2.jpg
Courtesy Utah Department of Transportation
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12600 South in Riverton is closed at Bangerter Highway for seven months as of Thursday night while Utah Department of Transportation crews are building an interchange there. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, January 22, 2021

State

State of the State

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox gave his first State of the State address Thursday. Cox laid out his priorities and hopes for the year in a speech that lasted about 15 minutes. They include increasing funding for education and making it through the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of last year’s protests against racial injustice, Cox also said the state needs to work towards a more equitable future. Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, was one of the Democratic lawmakers who responded to his speech, and she agreed Utah can do more to address systemic racism. Cox also called for Utahns to come together, after what he called the “tribalism” in recent weeks. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

UDOT Closes Riverton Road For Seven Months

12600 South in Riverton is closed at Bangerter Highway for seven months as of Thursday night while Utah Department of Transportation crews are building an interchange there. The closure is expected to create slowdowns Friday morning. UDOT said Bangerter Highway will stay open in both directions and right turns will also stay open both on and off 12600 South. The traffic signal at 12600 is being removed permanently. Marwan Farah is the UDOT Bangerter Interchanges project manager. He said the, "trade-off is, the closure allows us to build the interchange more quickly and safely, at a lower cost to taxpayers.” — Bob Nelson

Downtown Alliance Reviews State of Salt Lake

The Downtown Alliance released its 2020 State of Salt Lake report Thursday. It found that the number of vacant or underutilized acres in downtown Salt Lake City has more than tripled since 2018. In the past two years, tourists had a $1.5 billion dollar economic impact in the city, and retail spending increased compared to 2017-18. The Alliance found the overall state of Salt Lake City’s downtown is good. Some challenges lie ahead though, like attracting more skilled workers and construction and real estate costs. The group also noted it’s still too early to know the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. — Ross Terrell

University of Utah Announces New Plan To Fight Racism

The University of Utah is implementing new protocols developed by the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team. The U's Office of the Chief Safety Officer has hired Brian Nicholls as a new liaison to coordinate community engagement initiatives with organizations across campus. He'll work with Student Affairs and the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to broaden university safety efforts, according to a statement from the U. Jason Ramirez is the University's Associate Vice President and Dean of Students. He said the new leadership adds "a lot of energy focused on integrating efforts aimed at fostering a welcoming, inclusive and safe culture.” — Bob Nelson

Southern Utah

Drought Plan Kicks In

Dry conditions in the Upper Colorado River Basin have triggered a portion of a 2019 drought plan for the first time. A recent federal forecast showed one of the river’s biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell, dropping below a critical threshold. The projection forces water managers from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico to start monthly talks on how to prevent the decline from getting worse. Snowpack across the southern Rocky Mountains continues to lag well below the historical average. Read the full story. — Luke Runyon, KUNC

Dixie State Name Debate Continues

Dixie State University officials and other stakeholders met Thursday to discuss the idea of dropping “Dixie.” The board of trustees recommended a name change for the school last month. Penny Mills is the student body president and said keeping the name isn’t good for the university’s brand, especially outside of St. George. “I want everyone to know the university that I go to,” Mills said. “I want everyone to be proud of the university. But that's not the case. Students don't do that. Alumni don't wear the apparel.” The Utah Board of Higher Education has also supported a name change. Now, it’s up to the state Legislature. — Ross Terrell

Should Bikes Be Allowed On Arches Trail?

The National Park Service is looking for public comment on bicycle use on the newly constructed Arches Visitor Center Connector Trail. The trail connects the Arches National Park visitor center to the Moab Canyon Pathway. The review period gives the public a chance to weigh in whether or not they think bike use on the trail would negatively impact Arches’ aesthetic values, affect safety, disturb wildlife or park resources, according to a statement from the agency. Currently, people entering Arches on bikes have to use the main entrance road, creating safety issues for drivers and cyclists. The public can submit comments through Feb. 22 at parkplanning.nps.gov. — Bob Nelson

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