In August 2013, the Chamber’s effort from years past began to bear fruit as the Frontlines 2015 Project — 70 miles of new rail service over a seven-year period, finished two years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget. But again, the fastest growing state in the nation was going to outpace investment and gridlock the community; the state’s population was set to double in the next 25 years. The Chamber again looked around the corner to keep Utah’s economy moving.
Thankfully, Utah’s transportation agencies adopted the groundbreaking Unified Transportation Plan, the first of its kind in the country. This plan showed while there had been progress, there was still significant long-term funding needs for transportation that were not being addressed.
This led the Chamber to create the Utah Transportation Coalition, a collaborative statewide organization focused on ensuring Utah had a 21st-century transportation system that enables residents to enjoy remarkable life quality and prosperity.
“We need to make the case that economic prosperity comes from robust, stable and long-term investment in mobility infrastructure,” said Robin Riggs former Chamber general counsel. “Then to lobby the hell out of it!”
To accomplish this, the Chamber tapped David Golden, a Wells Fargo Executive Vice President and former chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors; as well as former Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Giant in Our City, H. David Burton, to lead the group.
“We’ve all heard the phrase: ‘if you build it, they will come.’ In Utah, the refrain is more like: they’re coming, so you better build it,” said Burton.
The Coalition worked to develop key partnerships, with a statewide message for addressing long-term transportation funding needs, with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, Utah Association of Counties, members of the private sector, and local chambers across the state.
“One thing I think we’ve proven is that an investment in transportation pays dividends for our economy, and I think the citizens and leadership of our state understand that,” said Golden. “From a business community perspective, we understand how important this investment is and how beneficial it is. We are a growing state with numerous demands, but I think overall, transportation is a proven winner in this state and one that people are on board with getting behind.”
In 2015, the Chamber again secured a major victory. The efforts of the Utah Transportation Coalition led the Legislature to pass the most comprehensive transportation funding legislation in state history. This holistic approach was a monumental effort to address part of the state’s future transportation funding shortfall. In addition to restructuring and raising the state’s gas tax after more than 18 years, the effort included a new local-option sales tax that, if approved by voters, would help local communities invest in transportation close to home in the form of roads, trails, sidewalks, maintenance, and transit.
“This represents the most significant transportation funding legislation in nearly 20 years and will ensure future economic prosperity for decades to come,” said Beattie. “A well-maintained and multi-modal transportation system has and will continue to pay dividends for our economy, environment, and quality of life.”
The success of these efforts has made Utah the envy of many states and regions, not just for the infrastructure investment, but the economic growth it has supported.