Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation say they hope the Legislature supports Gov. Norm Bangerter's commitment to fund improvements in state highways.
A proposed $151.72 million transportation budget includes $20 million in bonding and $16.8 million for continued construction of the West Valley Highway."Those are the key items UDOT will be looking at in the Legislature," said department spokesman Kim Morris.
Department director Eugene Findlay said the bonding would help highway construction crews go beyond what UDOT could do in a usual year. The $20 million would go toward reconstruction of the highway in Provo Canyon and U.S.-89 in Weber and Davis counties.
The $16.8 million for the West Valley Highway would go toward planning and construction of the expressway past 5400 South. Construction to 3100 South will be complete this fall, and construction to 5400 South will also begin this year.
Also intended to bolster road maintenance revenues is a bill (SB26) revamping fines for overweight semitrailer trucks. Last year, UDOT proposed legislation that would have doubled fines across the board. But protests from the Utah Motor Carriers Association killed the bill.
Since last year's session, lawmakers and trucking industry officials drafted a consensus bill that proposes a schedule of fines designed to penalize those grossly overweight more than those barely over the limits.
Association spokesman Reed Reeve said this year's bill proposes ascale of increasing fines targeting those truckers abusively overweight, which the industry wants penalized. Other pieces of legislation UDOT will watch in the upcoming session involve funding for city and county roads. Morris said UDOT anticipates a bill supported by Utah cities and counties that changes the split in the state's transportation fund. Such a bill has yet to be filed.
Currently the state receives 75 percent of the fund, and the remaining 25 percent goes to city and county roads. The rumored change would increase the city and county share to 40 percent, reducing the state's take to 60 percent.
"Obviously we would not be behind that because it would reduce funds to meet state highway needs," Morris said.
A pre-filed bill (SB19) that doesn't affect state transportation funds pits local governments against each other for road-repair money. The measure calls for a redistribution of ports-of-entry fees collected for overweight truck violations.
Currently overweight citation fines collected at the ports-of-entry in Washington, Box Elder, Summit and Grand counties go to those local governments, Morris said. SB19 proposes that over the next three years an increasing share - up to 100 percent - of the money go to the state, which would then distribute it to all cities and counties for road maintenance needs.