Utah will contribute up to $20,000 to a federal study on finding another coast-to-coast route that would pass through southern Utah.
The Utah Transportation Commission approved the funding last week, determining it was in the state's best interest to be involved in the study.Nineteen states will participate in examining the movement of goods and people in an east-west corridor bordered by I-70 on the north and I-40 to the south.
The project started more than a year ago from an idea by business leaders in Missouri and Kentucky to build a new freeway through the south-central United States, said Clint Topham, transportation planner for the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah's representative on the study's steering committee.
The business leaders banded together to promote "Interstate 66," a freeway paralleling much of the famed route 66, which is no longer on the federal system.
Their efforts secured $1.2 million in federal funding, to be matched by 20 percent from states through which the proposed freeway would pass. But when transportation officials from the 19 affected states got involved, the project expanded from a single highway.
Topham said the study will look at:
- The need for more coast-to-coast transportation.
- Where another transport route would fit within a 50-mile corridor.
- What mode of transportation would work best: highway, rail or air travel.
Later this month, Topham said, the steering committee will select consultants to work parameters of the 14-month study, which will begin sometime this summer.
Topham said the reason for the state's participation in the study is to protect the state's interests in a new transportation corridor.
Although national parks and wilderness areas pose considerable barriers to blazing a new freeway or rail line through southern Utah, Topham said it's not impossible.