OGDEN — Weber County’s population expanded by an estimated 4,600 people in 2018, with Hispanic and Latino growth pacing the increase.
Updated U.S. Census data released in September shows the Weber population grew to 256,359 last year, up from 251,769 in 2017. The population stood at 238,519 in 2013.
An organization that focuses on managing Wasatch Front growth and planning for the future says the new numbers help explain why U.S. Highway 89 and Interstate 15 through Northern Utah are increasingly clogged and housing prices are rising 7% a year.
“The growth pressures we’re feeling now and know we will continue to experience, the majority comes from our own children,” said Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council.
People are still moving here from elsewhere because of the high quality of life, but that native population growth outpaces in-migration.
“It really does present a challenge for us as a region and a state because that population growth puts at risk the quality of life that we enjoy,” Gruber said. “One way we feel that day to day is traffic congestion, but also ... housing costs are rising faster than income levels.”
Utah had 1 million people in 1970 and now the population is about 3 million. By 2050, it’s expected to reach 5 million.
The regional council is touting its Wasatch Choice 2050 plan. It advocates four overall goals: Provide transportation choices, support housing options, preserve open space, and link economic development with transportation and housing decisions.
“We know we all have to work together to plan for the future,” he said. “Growth is coming and we do have a plan.”
The bus rapid transit system being planned to run from the Ogden FrontRunner station to Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital is a good example of a project that will relieve road congestion, Gruber said.
“Weber State has students attending from all over the region, and for most of them the only way to get there is by car,” Gruber said. “When the BRT is complete they can take FrontRunner and then the BRT to school, and that takes pressure off the road network.”
According to the latest census numbers, the Hispanic-Latino population is the fastest growing segment.
Those residents now account for 18.7% of the Weber County population, up 0.4% in one year, with an increase of about 1,800 people. In the Ogden core, the share is higher, 19.4%, according to 2017 data.
Statewide, 14.2% of people are Hispanic, the census data shows. The demographic grew by almost 16,000 in one year, up from 2017’s 434,300 estimated total.
In Davis County, the Hispanic demographic increased to 9.9%, up 0.2%. Of the county’s estimated 351,713 people, more than 34,900 are Hispanics.