The state of Utah would be allowed to partner with private groups to
build toll roads, under a bill approved by the state’s Senate.
Senators voted 19-7 Tuesday, Feb. 14, to advance a bill that would give
the Utah Department of Transportation permission to join with a private partner
to finance and build toll roads in exchange for keeping toll revenue. The
bill’s next stop is the House.
UDOT had planned a public meeting for March 16 to discuss tolling in
the state, but according to the department’s Web site the meeting has been
postponed. No new date has been announced.
If the public/private partnership bill is signed into law, the first
likely candidate could be the Mountain View Corridor, stretching 35 miles from
Interstate 80 to Pleasant Grove. At this point, funding the road remains the
biggest obstacle to its completion.
Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, said his bill – SB80 – may offer the
best option to complete the project, and others like it.
“If we want to see the Mountain View Corridor anytime sooner than
perhaps 20 years down the road, this certainly becomes a much more interesting
option,” Killpack recently told The
Associated Press. “It’s the difference between a toll road and no
Transportation planners in the state say Utah would need $16.5 billion
during the next 25 years to keep up with business and traffic demands.
Toll road supporters say the state’s 24.5-cent-per-gallon tax on
gasoline and diesel is losing its buying power. Increasing the motor fuels tax
has been suggested but is not considered a viable option. Additionally, federal
funding for highways doesn’t fill the void.
Killpack’s plan still would require public funds because toll revenue
isn’t expected to provide enough bonding capacity to cover a project’s full
cost, The AP reported.
The controlling contract would put UDOT in charge of determining the
toll rate, when to increase it, and what the cap would be, Killpack said. The
length of the contract would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The state would retain a buy-out option and the Legislature would have
final bid approval.