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Friday, September 15, 2006

Prioritizing Transportation

By Sheldon Killpack
Utah State Senator, District 21

We’re set to discuss a major transportation plan on Tuesday. I should probably offer a few thoughts about this bill and outline the key points of the legislation.

First, this is not simply about UTA or a few Trax lines in Salt Lake County. Our desire is to formulate a policy that works for the entire state.

Second, this plan includes a big push for corridor preservation. While Transit has been able to preserve many of their future corridors, roads have a long way to go. Open areas are being developed and land prices are rising where future roads need to be built. We’re going to lose these corridors if we don’t act soon. This plan reserves 25 percent of a potential tax increase for corridor preservation. The other 75 percent can be sliced up between road projects, mass transit, and airports depending on how they play out in the criteria weighting process.

With transportation demands outstripping available dollars, taxpayers should expect a process that gives them the biggest bang for their buck. This is a big step in the right direction.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the transportation bill:
* This bill would prohibit the use of property tax for fixed-guideway systems beginning January 2007.

* It gives every county in the state the opportunity to place on the ballot an additional quarter-cent sales tax for their transportation needs, specifically: corridor preservation, state roads of regional significance, public transit (including light rail and commuter rail), local roads of regional significance; and airports.

* It requires both the county government and the taxpayers to vote to approve the tax increase before it can be imposed.

* It sets aside 25 percent of the new tax money for corridor Preservation for new capacity road projects.

* The proposal makes the Local Council of Governments responsible to develop a system to weigh all regional transportation projects against each other and develop a prioritized list.

* It creates a process to determine how the funds will be expended.
For more detail, see the summary prepared by our staff upstairs or the bill itself.

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