Transportation Officials: Underfunding Leads to Unbearable Commute

Transportation Officials: Underfunding Leads to Unbearable Commute

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Transportation officials told lawmakers that continued inadequate funding will lead to an unbearable situation for commuters.

"We are gravely concerned with funding levels being proposed in future budgets," Wasatch Front Regional Council executive director Charles Chappell told the Transportation Planning Task Force on Tuesday. "The situation is really out of control. Essential funding is essential."

By 2030, the population of Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties is projected to increase by 61 percent from the 2000 population. To handle the expected increase in transportation demands, the council has recommended that Interstate 15 be widened, that an alternate north-south roadway -- the Legacy Highway -- be built and that commuter rail be construction.

Concerns were raised about cuts over the last several years in the amount the state contributes to the Centennial Highway Fund. Faced with persistent budget shortfalls, lawmakers have said raiding the fund has been necessary.

James Gass of the Cache Metropolitan Planning Organization said Cache Valley now has 100,000 residents and is growing at 3.5 percent annually, yet many people still view it as a sleepy little community, Gass said.

"We would all like to go back to being the small, rural community that no one wants to visit in the wintertime, but I think those days are past us now," Gass said.

Lowell Elmer of the Dixie Transportation Planning Office said a beltway needed around St. George would cost at least $100 million.

"The highway dollars we are getting now are totally inadequate," Elmer said. "I hope you will continue some version of the Centennial Fund."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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