Autonomous vehicles, more flights: Washington County unveils transport projects for future

, The Spectrum  Published 7:30 a.m. MT Feb. 12, 2020

The future of transportation in Washington County could look pretty different.

Officials from multiple local travel organizations came out to the Dixie Convention Center Tuesday to discuss plans for new highways, new bus routes, new flights and new technology, including autonomous vehicles, during the annual Dixie Regional Transportation Expo.

Increased tourism, the region’s fast-growing population and new construction projects spreading out into what used to be open desert is putting more pressure on transportation planners across the county. The expo gives them a chance to show off some of the latest ideas to the public, and to get some feedback — visitors are encouraged to leave their own thoughts on those plans as part of the event.

After taking in all of the projects on display, here are some of those that stood out the most.

Autonomous vehicle shuttles

The Utah Department of Transportation brought their autonomous vehicle shuttle pilot to Southern Utah and showcased it to a friendly crowd that included St. George mayor Jon Pike, among others.

Electric vehicles that can hold from 6 to 12 passengers, the autonomous shuttles do not have steering wheels, pedals, a driver’s seat or a driver.

The shuttles were created in a collaboration with UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority to solve what planners call the “first mile/last mile” problem.

Not everyone has a way to get to the nearest transit stop or to get from the last transit stop to their desired location.

“Some people won’t ride transit because it stops a mile and a quarter from their house or a mile and a quarter from their office,” UDOT transportation technology engineer Blaine Leonard explained.

The general public is comfortable walking a quarter-mile to ride transit but any further and it becomes much less popular. Autonomous shuttles are designed to help with that problem.

More: From Tech Ridge zipline to new auto mall: Here’s a look at 2020 projects to watch

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