Utah County Residents To Vote on Tax for Commuter Rail

Utah County Residents To Vote on Tax for Commuter Rail

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Utah County residents will vote on a quarter-cent sales tax that would be used primarily for commuter rail.

The County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to put the proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Residents in Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties voted six years ago to hike taxes to fund mass transit.

Commissioners decided Tuesday that if the tax is approved, 87 percent will go for commuter rail, 8 percent for roads and 5 percent for other transit.

"It's hard to propose a tax increase," Provo Mayor Lewis Billings said. "You are going about it the right way. You are letting the people decide."

The proposal would provide funding for Utah County's $350 million, 22-mile portion of Provo-Salt Lake City leg of the commuter rail system.

Salt Lake County's part of leg is not yet funded,

Commissioner Steve White wants the commuter rail built sooner than the projected 2015. A massive Interstate 15 reconstruction is slated for 2011.

"When we put it on the ballot, people are going to expect to get something for their tax money," White said. "I'm just trying to figure out why it's 2015 that we get commuter rail when we have the money in 2007."

White said the Utah Transit Authority should continue working south when it completes the northern commuter rail line, from Ogden to Salt Lake City, in 2008.

Mick Crandall, UTA deputy chief of planning and programming, said construction in Utah County could not start sooner than 2010. An environmental impact study would take all of 2007, and engineering would take 2008 and 2009.

However, a temporary commuter rail system on Union Pacific's existing railways could be used during the I-15 overhaul.

Darrell Cook, executive director of the Mountainland Association of Governments, which coordinates transportation planning in Utah County, presented a list of road projects in Utah County slated to be funded through state and federal sources over the next four years.

Those projects total more than $315 million.

Add to that the $60 million portion for roads from the proposed quarter-cent sales tax and "that's a significant commitment to the road side of the equation," Cook said.

MAG has designated two road-widening projects to be funded with that $60 million. They are the north-south route connecting Utah 92 in Highland to U.S. 89 (State Street) in Pleasant Grove and 400 South in Springville.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-08-02-06 0408MDT

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