Depending on which of two leading lawmakers they were listening to, visitors to the Utah Capitol Friday morning would have left with one of the following impressions:
The accelerated I-15 reconstruction project is progressing as it should, saving motorists money and headaches, and any traffic safety problems on the freeway or city streets are caused by the improper behavior of individual drivers.Or:
I-15 work in Salt Lake County is wreaking havoc on businesses, property owners, local governments, motorists and pedestrians, and a full slate of legislation must be passed this session to mitigate the crippling economic and public safety impacts.
Stage right was Senate President Lane Beattie, advising a large group of Realtors that concentrating the I-15 work schedule is saving time, money and frustration. Don't listen to the naysayers who are trying to further their own agenda by griping about the nation's largest design-build road project, he suggested.
"Anybody can point fingers. Anybody can find faults," said Beattie, R-West Bountiful, as he kicked off Realtors' Day at the Legislature. "It takes leadership to come up with solutions."
Stage left, a few hundred feet away from Beattie, outside the Democratic attorney general's office, was House minority leader and chief party finger-pointer, Dave Jones, D-Salt Lake City. Jones, flanked by Democratic senators and representatives, outlined for the media his party's solution - a list of eight bills introduced earlier this session.
The Democrats' proposed laws would do a variety of things, such as: set up a traffic-safety task force; provide loans and direct state purchasing power to help businesses near impacted areas of I-15; charge an extra $10 on moving violation fines and give it to Salt Lake County communities; use $3 million from the state general fund to mitigate local impacts; encourage the Utah Department of Transportation to be more responsive to local governments; and require that property owners be paid replacement value instead of market value for land acquired by UDOT for road con-struc-tion.
Of the eight bills, only three have been passed out of committee. Two of those were watered down substantially.
Jones conceded not all of the road bills are likely to make it to the governor's desk. But he and other Democrats said they're more than willing to work with Republicans - and already have - to reach consensus on some of the issues.
"We want to share ideas," Rep. Patrice Arent, D-South Cottonwood, offered. "We want to come up with solutions."