Study: Tolls not adequate to pay for Utah corridor

| Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A study by the Utah Department of Transportation says the Mountain View Corridor cannot be financed with tolls alone. State lawmakers gave mixed reviews to the findings.

State residents would need to fork over about one-third of the cost of the proposed highway that would stretch 35 miles from Interstate 80 in Salt Lake County to the Pleasant Grove Interchange in Utah County, the study said. Likely revenue enhancers could include higher fuel taxes, sales taxes, vehicle registration fees or other funding options.

Some state and local officials and residents said the need for more public money makes the option of a toll road unappealing.

“If we have to pay for one-third of it, why should we toll it?” Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley, told the Deseret Morning News.

On the other hand, Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, said the study was “amazingly good news.”

Dougall cited legislation approved last month that would allow counties in the state to raise their sales tax by a one-fourth of a cent to pay for transportation projects. If approved by voters, about $450 million could be made available for the state to purchase land for the road that could then be tolled.

The tolling issue stems from legislation that was signed into law this year to allow the state to partner with private groups to finance and build toll roads. The private business would keep toll revenue.

The UDOT study that was released days before the lawmakers approved the sales tax option showed that leasing the road would not provide enough money to pay the complete cost of the project, the Morning News reported.

It is estimated that it would cost about $1.8 billion to complete the corridor project. Tolling the road to pay for construction would still require residents to pay about $640 million through tax increases or other options, the study said.

Leasing the highway to a private group would still require the state to cover about $502 million in costs through other funding sources.

The state Transportation Commission is expected to spend the next year reviewing details to make a decision about whether to impose tolls on the corridor. Public input is expected to play a part in the decision making process.

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