A poll commissioned by the Utah Department of Transportation found that Utahns are almost evenly divided in their opinion of Utah's traffic system.

The independent statewide survey of 603 Utahns by Dan Jones and Associates found that 53 percent said they are "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with Utah roads and highways, and 46 percent said they were "very dissatisfied" or "somewhat dissatisfied."The poll found that Utahns believe traffic conditions have deteriorated over the past five years and generally believe that roads will get even worse during the next five years.

The survey also found that most residents would prefer that user fees and diesel taxes instead of hikes in property, sales and gasoline taxes fund transportation improvements.

Utahns also generally believe the state should be responsible for future transportation needs, the study showed.

The survey was conducted Jan. 29 and 30. Results have an accuracy level of plus or minus 4 percent.

UDOT spokesman Kim Morris said the survey was done in addition to a non-scientific newspaper straw poll aimed at gauging public opinion.

Researchers found the 17 percent who reported being "very dissatisfied" tended to be motorists who spend 40 to 50 minutes per day commuting to and from work in the Salt Lake area. Forty-six percent reported they are "somewhat satisfied" with the state's traffic system.

Residents also said Utah roads are not adequate to handle rush-hour traffic flows and specifically singled out the freeway systems as being "very inadequate" at peak flow periods. Also getting low marks were roadside aesthetics and maintenance.

Seventy-six percent of the Utahns surveyed indicated current freeway conditions are either the same or worse than they were five years ago.

Of that group, 28 percent said conditions are about the same, 28 percent called them "somewhat worse" and 20 percent maintained conditions are a "great deal worse."

The survey determined that 82 percent of the respondents believe the state's freeways will remain unimproved or deteriorate over the next five years. Of the 60 percent majority who believe freeway conditions will worsen, 37 percent said conditions will be "somewhat worse" and 23 percent said they will be a "great deal worse."

Traffic congestion was the major problem cited by respondents, and people also said they are concerned about inadequate highways leading into recreation areas and tourist attractions.

"The inability to keep up with current and future transportation needs appears to be at the core of respondents major concerns," said Morris, with one in five saying their first concern is the need for better maintenance.

"Over one in three suggest that future transportation systems should include a mass transit alternative to the automobile," the spokesman said.

With the state facing some $2 billion in road and highway needs over the next five years, the survey asked people how improvements should be funded.

There was little support for increasing auto registration fees or levies such as property, sales and gasoline taxes. But the survey did find some support for increasing user fees that would hit large commercial vehicles, including a weight-distance tax for trucks, heavy truck fees and a tax on diesel fuel.

One-third of the people interviewed said the state is the logical entity to meet future transportation demands. Nearly 19 percent said the federal government should assume that role while about 7 percent indicated the task should fall to local government.

Only 6 percent said the private sector should respond to future needs while nearly 22 percent opted for "other" and 13 percent they didn't know who should assume the responsibility.