When it comes to solving traffic jams along the Wasatch Front, business and government leaders seem to agree a light rail system is needed.
But to get one, area residents will have to pay more taxes, according to a report released Wednesday by the Business Government Alliance.The report recommends using money from the federal and state governments and from local taxes, preferably a gasoline tax and an increase in automobile registration fees, to build a train system and widen local freeways.
Although the project will cost at least $900 million, area residents will lose much more if no rail system is built, the report said.
"The quality of life and economic development of Salt Lake County will be severely hampered (without the project)," the report said.
The federal government would add an average of $14 million a year to the local economy while the train system is being built, and it would add $11 million annually after the system is completed, officials said. The trains would add 500 permanent jobs.
The report, written by a transportation task force formed 16 months ago, reached conclusions similar to those being reached by many transportation officials. The Wasatch Front Regional Council is conducting a similar study, and a congressional committee conducted a hearing in Utah recently to decide whether to fund further studies.
Now, according to members of the alliance, the time has come for the leaders to join forces and work together to build the system and to enlarge the freeways.
"The duplication is ridiculous," said Deedee Corradini, chairman of the alliance. She recommends forming a committee that includes local, state, congressional and business leaders.
But while business and government leaders appear convinced the rail system is needed, they agree it may be harder to persuade the public.
"All of us say we support light rail, but I would be embarrassed to tell you the last time I took the bus," said Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson. "We all have that intimate relationship with our cars. We love our cars."
To help sell the idea of riding a train to work, members of the transportation task force said the system should be built before the freeways are renovated.
"By the time the freeway is fixed, the people will know how great light rail is," said Dale Zabris-kie, task force member.