Utah to Build New State Prison

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution in August to move the Utah State Prison from Draper to a site west of Salt Lake City International Airport.

Now that the governor signed off on the about $550 million project, the state can begin finalizing the purchase of the land and designing the new facility. It will be designed with space for rehabilitation and treatment programs, and will house about 4,000 inmates.

Gov. Herbert called the site the best location because it will have a minimal impact negatively to Salt Lake City and will have the most effective return on taxpayers’ dollars, reported Deseret News. He added that the utilities, road improvements and other infrastructure needed for a new prison will serve as a means for economic development on what is currently just wetlands.

Salt Lake City officials oppose the move, stating that they’re worried the prison would sit on sandy soil that could lead to buildings sinking and buried storage tanks rising up in the event of an earthquake. The site also sits next to an abandoned landfill, which could potentially contaminate groundwater brought onto the prison site or nearby wetlands and southern shore of the Great Salt Lake, reported the Associated Press.

A commission that chose the site said it would be complicated to stabilize the soil, but it could be done. The commission added that the site is the cheapest place for operation because of its close proximity to Salt Lake City’s hospitals, courts and population base. Before construction could start, the state would have to spend about $60 million and anywhere between 18 and 36 months to stabilize the soil, according to the Associated Press.

If and when the prison is built, the current outdated prison in Draper would be torn down to free up land for business development. High-tech businesses such as Adobe and eBay opened offices in the area, and state officials estimate that the 700-acre prison site could turn its current $500 million in economic activity into $2 billion if it is repurposed, according to the Associated Press.