Despite witnessing the disappearance of $22 million in construction funding in the waning hours of the 1991 Legislature, the Utah Department of Transportation hasn't given up hope.
UDOT executives met with the Transportation Commission last week and will meet with Gov. Norm Bangerter this week to discuss how to get back the lost highway construction funding. UDOT has another crack at the money when lawmakers meet in special session in April to resolve a $70 million bonding package they failed to approve before the regular session ended.Lost in the last wheeling and dealing were more than $2 million toward the West Valley Highway and $20 million in bonding money that would have gone to reconstruction of U.S. 89 in Davis and Weber Counties and U.S. 189 in Provo Canyon.
Bangerter initially recommended $16.8 million for West Valley Highway, which would have paved the project to 7800 South. But was reduced to about $7.5 million after adjusted revenue figures came out.
UDOT director of policy and planning Clint Topham said transportation officials had no problem with that reduction because the $9 million cut dealt with the 1993 phase of the project.
But disagreements on the bonding package eventually left UDOT with just $5.5 million for the highway. Topham said that $2 million would have paved the highway to 6200 South, provided grading to 7800 South and some fill work for a bridge at 8600 South.
With just $5.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year, Topham said he doesn't know what adjustments will have to take place on the long-awaited highway.
Thirty years in planning, the proposed expressway, between 3200 West and 4000 West, would run the length of Salt Lake Valley. It is completed to 2100 South and construction is either under way or in the bidding phase to 5400 South.
But Topham hopes engineers won't have to readjust the construction schedule as UDOT will try to recover the needed $2 million and its $20 million in bond money.
Issuing general obligation bonds for highway projects is a first for the state, Topham said, and it shows Bangerter's commitment to transportation.
The governor will leave it up to the Utah Transportation Commission to decide how to spend whatever share of the bond UDOT secures from the special session. But in his initial recommendation, Bangerter cited U.S. 89 in Davis and Weber counties and the highway in Provo Canyon as worthy candidates for some extra money.