With Davis County now in charge, a passable public toll road to Antelope Island could be in place by year's end, a county official said.
The Utah Transportation Commission voted to transfer ownership of the highway, which runs from Syracuse to the island, to Davis County and remove it from the state road system.The change came Friday at the urging of the Davis County Commission, whose members wanted the road serviceable sooner and at less cost than the state could provide.
"(Antelope Island) hasn't been visited in a number of years, and it has a real economic impact" on Davis County, said county commissioner J. Dell Holbrook.
He called the mountainous island in the Great Salt Lake one of the state's most popular attractions. But access to the island has been restricted since the lake rose and washed out the road several years ago.
Improving the road will be an economic boon to service stations, hotels, restaurants and other service industries in the county, Holbrook said.
Noting that two-thirds of Davis County is water, Holbrook said he would rather use the water as a source of revenue than keep taxing residents.Commission chairman Sam Taylor said state transportation officials acknowledged the county has more flexibility than the state to bring the road up to passable standards.
Utah Department of Transportation planners had estimated it would cost about $15 million to raise the causeway some 15 feet to prevent future washouts and to restore the road to state highway standards.
In a recent special session, the Legislature appropriated $3 million toward the causeway's reconstruction.
But Holbrook said the county standards would allow using the appropriation to improve the washed-out highway to a passable gravel road this year. In future years, the county could gradually bring the road up to state standards with money earned from charging a 50-cent toll and lobbying lawmakers for more money, he said.
Getting a usable road in place before year's end would help the county get future appropriations from the state, Holbrook said. "It will show the Legislature that we are serious."