While Congress already authorized $1.8 billion for Utah transportation projects over the next six years, 2002 Olympic organizers say that may not be enough - by a sixth.
They have requested an extra $300 million from U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, which he could choose to fund out of discretionary funds that he controls.Thanks to provisions added by Utah members of Congress this year to transportation bills, Slater by law is now supposed to give a top priority for such funds to Olympics projects.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee says the 16 projects it wants him to fund are absolutely needed for the Olympics - ranging from improving I-80 interchanges in Park City to widening a railroad bridge in Kearns and building a new road to Snowbasin.
But that list of priorities for Slater's discretionary funds is also causing some concern among Utah's congressional offices.
That's because some projects they have touted as needed or helpful for the Olympics are not on it, including the west-east extension to the new light rail system and the Legacy Parkway in west Davis County. A few worry that could hurt fights in Congress for year-to-year funding of those projects.
G. Frank Joklik, president and CEO of SLOC, said Olympics organizers promised Slater such a list of projects when he visited Utah last November.
He said it was developed since then by SLOC's staff, which includes engineers, in cooperation with the Utah Department of Transportation, which helped with the cost estimates.
Joklik said he traveled to Washington last week and gave it to Slater personally. It includes $159.4 million for 10 highway projects and $140.2 million for six transit projects.
The highway projects on it include $16.4 million for a new road to the Snowbasin ski resort; $56 million to improve two I-80 interchanges near Park City; and $20 million to improve the interchange of U.S. 89 and I-84 near Ogden.
Also included are $2 million to improve an I-215 interchange near the E Center in West Valley City; $3 million to rebuild and widen a railroad bridge on 5400 South in Kearns near a speed skating venue; and a pedestrian bridge between the University of Utah campus and the Olympic athlete village.
Transit projects include $34 million to obtain by loan 1,400 buses for the Olympics from around the country plus use of 1,500 qualified mechanics and drivers; $11.5 million for new bus maintenance facilities in Park City, Snowbasin and the Salt Lake International Airport; and $58.5 million to build several new park-and-ride lots.
"We restricted the list to projects that are essential for the Olympics," Joklik said. He said it also focused on projects that need funds quickly - because the Olympics are just 31/2 years away "and these projects really should be done a year before that."
But it didn't include high-profile projects that some politicians have pushed as needed for the Olympics as they seek additional money for them - especially extensions to the light rail system's main north-south line.
Some congressional aides speaking privately said that surprised some offices. Some worried it would hurt in annual appropriations fights. Others said light rail has its own separate funding sources and didn't need to be on the list seeking discretionary funds.
Several aides were also upset because they said the delegation was not consulted about what should be on the list until it was done and presented to Slater.
Joklik, however, said the delegation - and UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority - had all been consulted and should not have been surprised.
"Let me dispel this notion that we are not all singing from the same song sheet," he said.
Utah Transit Authority officials also said Friday the omission of the west-east line from SLOC's discretionary funding request was entirely appropriate and should have no bearing on Congress' willingness to fund that project.
The $374 million west-east line was included in a separate, $640 million authorization in a six-year transportation bill that passed this year. UTA will have to battle to actually receive those funds over the next few years, but the path through which that money can be requested has been identified and is not dependent upon discretionary money, agency officials said.
"I see their request as complementary, not divisive," said UTA attorney Kathryn Pett. "There's no reason for them to go in and ask for what we've already asked for. . . . There's no reason to file a redundant request."
Pett said UTA met with SLOC officials to discuss their discretionary funding request before it was put together and has since seen the list. UTA General Manager John Inglish has been in contact with SLOC regarding the list, she said.
Joklik also said Friday that SLOC did not address light rail on its list in part because "things like I-15 (reconstruction) and light rail are beyond our scope."