State Says No to Toll Lanes on I-15

State Says No to Toll Lanes on I-15

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A four-month feasibility study shows congestion isn't bad enough to warrant adding toll lanes to Interstate 15, Utah Department of Transportation officials said Friday.

"The time savings involved is not quite worth it," said UDOT spokesman Tom Hudachko. "I don't think people will think it's worth paying for the minimal advantage they would receive."

HOT lanes -- or high-occupancy toll lanes -- allow motorists to purchase the right to drive in car pool lanes without carrying passengers. Utah lawmakers passed a bill this year allowing the state's transportation commission to study the idea and establish tolling facilities.

In June, the commission began tracking traffic on a 36-mile stretch of highway between Salt Lake City and Orem. But the study shows HOT lanes would only save travelers about five minutes in travel time.

In other parts of the country HOT lanes save motorists a lot more than that, Hudachko said.

"The good news is, we're not quite as congested as they are," said Hudachko. "The bad news is, we probably will be in the future."

And that means there's a good chance toll roads are in Utah's future. The state is studying ways to partner with private companies to build toll roads. In September 14 lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert went to Austin, Texas, to review its public-private road partnerships.

Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, is also planning legislation for the 2006 Legislature that would authorize the state to enter such partnerships with private developers. Killpack says that would save the state time and money.

Currently Utah has a $7 billion funding deficit for road and transit projects over the next 10 years.

"As people begin to understand more and more that the gas tax is not funding transportation and understand the demands out there, I think it makes more and more sense that we're going to have to diversify how we go about funding transportation," Killpack said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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