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SALT LAKE CITY — While Davis and Weber counties will collect millions of additional tax dollars for road, sidewalk and trail improvements, the state's two most populous counties will have to find other ways to fund transportation projects — or not fund them at all.
That's the verdict voters decided during this year's election when they weighed in on Proposition 1, the local option tax increase to fund local transportation projects.
The tax hike, which increases taxes by one penny for every $4 spent, was on the ballot in 17 of Utah's 29 counties this year, representing a potential boost of about $108 million. However, voters in seven counties gave the tax hike a thumbs down, plummeting the statewide tax impact to roughly $28 million.
While Davis and Weber counties will collect $11 million and $9 million more respectively, Utah County will miss out on more than $18 million. Salt Lake County passed on the state's largest potential pot of money — nearly $58 million.
"We'll just have to continue to do the best we can," said Larry Ellertson, a Utah County commissioner, referencing the county's $6 million annual deficit for transportation projects.
Cities throughout Utah County and Salt Lake County, as well as across the state, face similar budget shortfalls. A recent Utah League of Cities and Towns study showed a gap of more than 60 percent between local transportation needs and current allocation of road funds.
"Proposition 1 would have helped us to tackle that backlog," said Salt Lake County township executive Patrick Leary. "The need is there, and that need is not going away."
Aside from Davis and Weber counties, the measure was approved in Grand, San Juan, Duschene, Carbon, Rich, Sanpete, Sevier and Tooele counties, but failed in Beaver, Box Elder, Juab, Morgan, Uintah, Utah and Salt Lake counties.
"It's unfortunate that (voters) aren't understanding the breadth of the issue," Ellertson said. "By delaying projects, it does nothing more than increase their cost. But we'll have to face that another day."
Davis County Commission Chairman Bret Millburn praised voters for passing Proposition 1, which could be especially helpful in the county's busiest cities, Bountiful and Layton, where he said city officials have "struggled for years" to keep up on general maintenance.
"This infusion of dollars will really help them over the next couple of years," he said. "I applaud the citizens for being forward thinking and realizing that we're being faced with a tremendous amount of growth and that it's better to be on the front side of things rather than playing catch-up."
Last week, Weber County officials approved more than $18 million in local road projects in Harrisville, Hooper, Marriott-Slaterville, North Ogden and West Haven, thanks to funding from a different local option sales tax increase, which voters approved in 2008.
The need is there, and that need is not going away.
–Patrick Leary, SL County township executive
Doug Larsen, executive director of economic development in Weber County, commended voters there for approving smart investments not only in 2008, but also in 2015.
"The B and C road funds available to cities are typically not sufficient to adequately maintain local roadways, particularly given our growth," Larsen said. "So maintenance will likely be a primary use of this new revenue."
Of the new tax money, 40 percent will go to the Utah Transit Authority in counties that approved the increase and are served by the public transportation agency. UTA has pledged to use the funds to increase bus and transit services, including frequency, hours and amenities.
That's why Millburn said the new revenue could help alleviate heavy traffic in Davis and Weber.
The remaining 40 percent will go to city budgets for local projects and 20 percent will go to county budgets for regional projects. In counties without a transit district, 40 percent will go to cities and 60 percent will go to counties.
Since the new tax revenue won't be made available until July 2016, Millburn said specific lists of county and city projects funded by Proposition 1 money likely won't be approved in Davis County and other municipalities until next year's budget cycle.
According to a voluntary survey of city and county officials conducted by Utahns for Responsible Transportation Investments, the group that backed Proposition 1, projects that could be funded by the new tax money include — but are not limited to — the following:
- General road and sidewalk maintenance throughout cities across the county
- Milling and paving of various Bountiful roads, including segments on 2600 South, Davis Boulevard, 300 North, 200 West, 1800 South and Main Street
- Repairs of potholes and cracks on various Syracuse roads, including segments on 1000 West, Bluff Road, 2175 South, Banbury Road, 1250 West, Melanie Lane and 2700 South
- Extension of Gordon Avenue, east from Emerald Drive to Highway 89 in Layton
- Widening of 1100 West in Woods Cross
- Street lighting placement along 500 South and 1100 North in Woods Cross
- Increased general trail maintenance, especially on Legacy Trail
- Complete construction of Kay's Creek Trail, a trail that would extend from the northeast to southwest corners of Layton Weber County - General road and sidewalk maintenance throughout cities including Ogden, Roy, Riverdale and Washington Terrace
- Complete reconstruction of two roads in Ogden: 20th Street between Washington Boulevard and Harrison Boulevard, and Monroe Boulevard from Sullivan's Hollow to 20th Street
- Road repair on Ogden Canyon Road in Huntsville
- Reconstruction of various Roy roads, including 2675 West, a section of 3100 West and sections of 6000 South
- Construction of a trail linking Washington Terrace with Riverdale and Weber River Trail system According to the same survey, projects that could have been funded in counties that did not pass Proposition 1 include: Salt Lake County
- Increased general maintenance of roads and sidewalks in cities across the county
- Development of urban trails in Salt Lake City, including extending the 9-Line trail and developing the Folsom Trail to connect Jordan River Parkway to the Gateway
- Various projects in West Valley, including reconstruction of segments of Printer's Row (2300 South) and 4100 South, and widening segments of Parkway Boulevard, 4700 South and 4000 West
- Improved traffic flow in Murray by extending Main Street from 4500 South to Cottonwood Street (4900 South)
- Widening of several streets in West Jordan, including all of 1300 West and segments of 7000 South and 7800 South
- Widening of several streets in Riverton, including segments on 4000 West and 1300 West, as well as a new roadway to connect 12600 South to 13400 South Utah County- Increased citywide maintenance of roads and sidewalks in cities across the county, especially those experiencing rapid growth such as Lehi, Alpine, Lindon, Orem, Provo and Spanish Fork
- Widening of several county roads, including segments of 900 West, 8000 South, 8800 South, 9600 South, Elk Ridge Drive, 11900 South, 12000 South and 124000 South
- Widening of 1200 West in Lehi, from I-15 to state Route 92
- Reconstruction of Pioneer Drive, 300 North, Westfield Road and 800 South in Alpine
- Reconstruction of various roads in American Fork, including segments of 1340 North, 200 North and 860 East
- Reconstruction of roads in Lindon, including segments of Lakeview Road and 200 South
- Increased maintenance of various trails, including Spanish Fork Canyon trail, Payson Canyon Trail, South Fork Trail, Santaquin Canyon Trail, Camp Williams Trail, Utah Lake Shoreline Trail and Highline Canal Trail