Eye On Boise

What Utah did...

State lawmakers and others on Gov. Butch Otter's transportation task force drew a full-house audience for their meeting in Boise on Wednesday. (Betsy Russell)
State lawmakers and others on Gov. Butch Otter's transportation task force drew a full-house audience for their meeting in Boise on Wednesday. (Betsy Russell)

The governor's transportation funding task force got an overview of a "Utah case study," looking at what that state did to increase transportation funding. It started with a year and a half-long "growth summit" in 1995, which involved citizens across the state in envisioning how best the state should cope with growth. A statewide poll found that 48 percent of Utahns felt that roads were Utah's No. 1 growth problem. Eventually, the state developed the Centennial Highway Fund, to complete 41 specific highway projects statewide. It was funded by a 5 cent gas tax increase, a large federal transportation funding increase that came through at the time, billions in state general funds, millions in local contributions, and a state sale of billions in general obligation bonds. It covered a 10-year building program.

"It had very specific projects, and it had a lot of local support," consultant Tom Warne, former Utah transportation director, told the task force. "At the end of the day this was a very bought-into project by the Legislature ... supported by the Legislature and the governor." Plus, he noted that the process that developed the plan was "very engaging for the public." He said, "Citizens are willing to pay for transportation if there is a plan that includes projects, a schedule and a limit on the tax increase."




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