Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has signed a bill into law allowing the
state to partner with private groups to build toll roads. It allows the private
businesses to keep the toll revenue.
The new law, which the state’s House and Senate both approved by
comfortable margins, authorizes the Utah Department of Transportation to join
with private partners to finance and build toll roads.
The first likely candidate for privatization 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.
Opponents say it’s an unfair proposal and a form of double taxation.
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.