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Richard Piatt ReportingThe state is planning to invest more in both mass transit and roads in the future--much more. As a matter of fact, the amount of money is staggering, and in some cases other state needs will have to compete for the same money.
The needs are in the billions of dollars, and right now no one is ruling out future tax hikes or even toll roads.
Transportation Priority One: Getting Legacy Highway, a project on hold, done. The price tag has gone up, now 234 million dollars higher than projected, because of legal delays over environmental impacts. The new total: 685-million dollars
Priority Two: Extending commuter lanes from Point of the Mountain into I-15 in Utah County. It's a 42-million dollar band-aid to deal with growing congestion here, in advance of another widening project that will cost tens of billions.
Number Three: Congestion in Southern Utah is getting worse. Widening Saint George Boulevard will cost 10-million dollars, an I-215-type belt route, hundreds of millions more.
Add to that rebuilding I-80 and I-15 near Ogden, Mountain View Corridor, and rebuilding US 6. In all more than a hundred projects, and 16.5 billion dollars over the next 30 years---and no set way to pay for it. That's why the Legislature is trying to address the need, passing a bill to dedicate a set amount to UDOT projects--an effort to hold off something everyone hates.
Mike Jerman, Utah Taxpayers Association: "We'll be looking at massive tax increases down the road. For a typical family anywhere from a couple hundred to maybe 800 dollars per year."
Carlos Braceras, UDOT Deputy Director: “Takes a long time to develop projects. We work on a 30-year transportation plan. We’re looking that far into the future.”
But even all that money--currently 30 million a year--won't be enough. UDOT is exploring other options, including a kind of 'toll road' asking single drivers to pay to use commuter lanes. All this money going to transportation is a bit maddening to those with other needs on their mind, like educators also facing massive growth.
Pat Rusk, Utah Education Association: "We feel the pain, but we can't keep getting put on the back burner for more roads."