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


The spending plan could be made potential by tens of millions in federal funding from the American Rescue Plans Act.

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

As time runs out on the 2022 common session, Utah lawmakers are working behind the scenes to craft an enormous transit infrastructure invoice that could possibly be value as a lot as $1 billion.

The issue is determining tips on how to pay for it.

Transportation spending, primarily specializing in street 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 means of ARPA, however there are restrictions on how it may be spent. The thought: discover locations the place ARPA funds can exchange present income within the common 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 funds.

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

That capability 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 common 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 approved to remark.

The enhance in funding will go a protracted technique to addressing Utah’s transportation wants, however it nonetheless isn’t sufficient to cowl each want. The bottom funds for transportation in Utah this yr is about $2.8 billion. Further transportation-related funds requests accounted for an additional $1.2 billion in one-time cash and $800,000 in ongoing funds.

Utah added half 1,000,000 new residents between 2010 and 2020, a mixture of individuals shifting right here and Utahns having kids. That’s an 18.4% development price, the quickest within the nation.

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

In 2021, they handed a $1.23 billion transit package deal 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 means of bonding.

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

If public transit tasks are included within the remaining checklist, the state might 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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