Think Tank Looks at Future of Utah Roads vs. Population

Think Tank Looks at Future of Utah Roads vs. Population

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Richard Piatt ReportingPolitics and population are on a collision course in Utah and eventually, it could mean higher taxes.

Wide, smooth, still under warranty and paid for: I-15 is unique in Utah. Traffic flows smoothly, most of the time. But in 10, 20, 30 years it will be different.

Like most major Utah highways, constant fixes will be needed to keep up with a growing population; expected to double by 2030. Light rail and commuter rail will become more popular with people who want to avoid the highways.

But how do we pay for it, and when do we start? Those are hard questions the think-tank Wasatch Regional Council is taking on.

Chuck Chapell, Wasatch Front Regional Council: "Our need to get to where we need to be in 27 years come to billions of dollars. And those amounts don't come easy."

More than a dozen elected leaders are already weighing things like regular gas tax increases, and millions more from the state budget for transportation. Mass transit options include a possible sales tax hike of another half percent.

Those options were presented to leaders at the State Capitol.

Sen. Michael Waddoups, Senate Majority Leader: “The response was laughter.”

Any kind of statewide tax increase, no matter how noble the project, will be vigorously opposed by the Legislature.

Sen. Michael Waddoups, Senate Majority Leader: "I think the public feel like they're putting enough money into automobile and road related taxes already and they're not ready for a tax increase."

That may be true, but population growth and crowded roads are in fact coming. And taxpayers will end up paying to accommodate them one way or another.

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