Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY – Hundreds met on the front steps of the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 25, to rally for better, safer transportation in Utah.
“We are here to draw attention to Utah’s critical transportation needs as we enter an era of unprecedented growth, declining purchasing power and deteriorating infrastructure,” said Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie.
One of the primary focuses of the rally was the Utah Unified Transportation Plan, a 30-year plan for improving state transportation facilities and addressing the needs of a growing population. The plan, according to Beattie, would generate nearly 183,000 jobs and contribute nearly $184 billion to Utah’s gross domestic product by 2040.
UTA General Manager Michael Allegra noted other benefits of the Unified Transportation Plan, including less congestion, lower vehicle operating costs, more reliable transportation systems and improved safety and air quality.
Several at the rally are advocating transportation-related bills before the 2015 Legislature, including Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, sponsor of HB362, a bill that modifies provisions relating to transportation infrastructure and funding. Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, is sponsoring HB79, a bill that makes seat belt violations a primary offense.
As with many issues, funding remains one of the largest obstacles for building the infrastructure for meeting transportation needs. For example, Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson noted that current Class B and C Road Funds only cover about one-quarter of local transportation funding needs, not including new projects.
Gibson stressed the importance of creating a framework that could address transportation maintenance issues head-on in order to save costs in the future.
“I use the analogy of when you tell your kids to brush your teeth and then you save a lot of money when you’re 40 on repairs because you’ve done the preventative maintenance,” Gibson said. “It’s the same with roads.”
Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn, who also attended the rally, added that everyone is affected by transportation issues, including local businesses and the general public.
“A solid transportation system affects everybody, at all levels,” Millburn said. “It’s going to take solid leadership stepping forward and providing a little bit more resource in that category to propel us forward.”