In the coming weeks, the Salt Lake Chamber’s Utah Transportation Coalition will join other leaders around the nation for National Infrastructure Week, recognizing the importance of infrastructure—especially Utah’s state of the art transportation system.
Our state legislature has proven time and again that Utah is committed to maintaining a strong transportation system. In the 2015 general legislative session, Utah passed H.B. 362 Transportation Infrastructure Funding Amendments. This comprehensive approach to infrastructure funding was a monumental effort to address part of the state’s transportation funding shortfall. This year, the legislature passed S.B. 276 Transportation Funding Modifications to update this 2015 fuel tax reform so that revenues keep pace with inflation as was intended with the original bill. Additionally, the bill begins a process of reducing overall sales-tax earmarks by 35% of the new fuel tax revenues to ensure users bear the primary responsibility for funding Utah’s infrastructure.
In 2016, Utah was the fastest growing state in the nation and projections show this growth is not expected to stop anytime soon. Utah’s business community works closely with the governor and legislators to prevent problems and tackle tough issues related to transportation infrastructure. The combination of careful planning and tenacious problem-solving keeps Utah ahead of other states facing similar challenges. S.B. 174, Public Transit and Transportation Governance Amendments is another critical piece of legislation passed in the 2017 session designed to help Utah continue this success. The bill builds on the collaboration behind Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan with a new Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force. This group will evaluate best practices regarding multimodal transportation to support mobility, safety, economic growth and quality of life throughout the state and collaboratively plan for investment in Utah’s transportation system.
In addition to the aforementioned bills, another integral piece of transportation legislation was S.B. 277, Highway General Obligation Bonds Authorizations which approves a $1 billion bond for state transportation facilities, or $250 million a year for four years. The bill protects the existing prioritization process set by the Utah Transportation Commission to determine projects that advance. Representative Schultz commented that this approach demonstrates Utah’s exceptional fiscal responsibility, confirmed by our state being one of a select few with a AAA bond rating.
Despite some uncertainties, the road ahead looks promising, and now Utahns are reaping the benefits as one of the most fiscally conservative states in the nation choosing to invest heavily in transportation.
We are seeing first hand the benefits of prioritizing transportation. UDOT has released the Top 10 projects of the 2017 construction season and at the top of the list is the Bangerter Highway Interchange in southern Salt Lake County, expected to be completed in late 2018. In total, UDOT will spend about $1.3 billion on improvements in 2017, with more than 180 projects set to begin statewide. These projects will help advance UDOT’s long-term goal to improve mobility now and in the future.
Other states are mimicking the Utah model—prioritizing transportation now to save money later—because good stewards know that good roads cost less. Even after this monumental year for Utah’s infrastructure, it can be easy to overlook the continued need for investment in our transportation system. With the expected population growth and critical need to remain competitive, Utah must continue to be at the forefront of the nation’s transportation.
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