$1 billion transportation infrastructure bill could change Utah’s roads and public transportation


The spending plan could be made attainable by hundreds of thousands in federal funding from the American Rescue Plans Act.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner practice operator prepares to go away the station in Ogden on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020.

As time runs out on the 2022 normal session, Utah lawmakers are working behind the scenes to craft a large transit infrastructure invoice that may very well be price as a lot as $1 billion.

The issue is determining how you can pay for it.

Transportation spending, primarily specializing in highway building and public transit, is feasible due to federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) handed by Congress.

Utah obtained roughly $1.5 billion in federal cash by way of ARPA, however there are restrictions on how it may be spent. The concept: discover locations the place ARPA funds can change present income within the normal fund, which then frees up cash for the transit invoice.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, explains it’s not so simple as simply plugging the cash into the price range.

“We can not use all these ARPA funds for no matter we would like. That’s why we’ve put it into water tasks and different issues,” Stevenson mentioned.

That capacity to unencumber money for infrastructure wants with out pulling from one other pot of cash is a singular alternative. There may be not sufficient extra cash within the normal fund to cowl the scope of the tasks lawmakers are hoping to incorporate within the invoice with out the federal cash.

“We’ll by no means be capable to do that a lot once more,” mentioned a legislative supply with data of the infrastructure discussions, however who was not licensed to remark.

The increase in funding will go a protracted option to addressing Utah’s transportation wants, but it surely nonetheless just isn’t sufficient to cowl each want. The bottom price range for transportation in Utah this 12 months is about $2.8 billion. Extra transportation-related price range requests accounted for one more $1.2 billion in one-time cash and $800,000 in ongoing funds.

Utah added half one million new residents between 2010 and 2020, a mix of individuals shifting right here and Utahns having youngsters. That’s an 18.4% development price, the quickest within the nation.

And as such, Utah lawmakers have lately been on a transportation spending spree.

In 2021, they handed a $1.23 billion transit bundle that included $264 billion in bonds to double-track parts of the FrontRunner commuter rail. That proposal was pared down from its preliminary $2.26 billion price ticket after Republicans within the Senate balked at borrowing $1.4 billion by way of bonding.

Earlier than the 2022 session, legislative leaders put aside $200 million to rescind the FrontRunner bonds issued, saving the state hundreds of thousands in bond funds. Lawmakers are hoping to unencumber sufficient money to pay for all the transit tasks on this 12 months’s invoice with out borrowing, however bonds are once more a chance.

If public transit tasks are included within the remaining record, the state may have extra management over how that cash is spent. A present proposal — HB322, which nonetheless wants Senate debate — transfers oversight of public transit tasks funded with state cash from the Utah Transit Authority to the Utah Division of Transportation.

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