County representatives throughout Utah are not interested in receiving control of state roads, unless adequate funding accompanies those roads.
And most county officials doubt the funding will be provided if the transfer occurs.This was the consensus as representatives of nearly all Utah's counties and some cities gathered Friday in Provo to share their opinions on the proposed transfer of state roads to local control. County commissioners from rural Utah were particularly against assuming responsibility for roads now being maintained by the Utah Department of Transportation.
"The position of Rich County is that we don't think that we can take any of these roads," said Rich County Commissioner Blair Francis.
The counties' concern over road transfers comes in response to a bill proposed during the last state legislative session that would have transferred about 72 percent of the roads now maintained by the state to local governments. The issue is now being considered by the Legislature's Transportation Interim Committee, which has been asked to make a recommendation during the next legislative session.
In response, the Utah Association of Counties formed a technical committee to examine the issue. Brent Gardner, executive director of the association, said the committee received from UDOT a list of possible roads to be transferred, and then it pared it down to what it deemed a more reasonable list. The committee then passed on the list to counties and cities for consideration and response.
County and city officials were asked to meet and determine if they were willing to accept transfer of the roads on the technical committee's list. Gardner said his organization will summarize the feedback and pass it on to legislators.
The main concern is obviously related to funding. The counties don't have the money to care for the roads on their own and some of Utah's small towns don't have the equipment to maintain roads.
"Daggett County is not interested in receiving these roads under any condition," said Daggett County Commissioner James Briggs. "There is just no way that Daggett County can afford to take these roads over."
San Juan County Commissioner Ty Lewis said his county isn't in a position to take care of any state roads.
"If we're forced to take any of the state roads as proposed, we're going to abandon them as a county," he said.
Emery County Commissioner Bevan Wilson said issues that need to be addressed include reconstruction of damaged roads, increased law enforcement needs, civil liability and how environmental and utility easements will be dealt with. Forty percent of Emery County's highways experience heavy truck traffic, making them more expensive to maintain.
"We have a real concern on how this funding formula could ever be worked out," Wilson said.
The issue of how to divide up road maintenance funds will be complicated, said Utah County Engineer Clyde Naylor, adding that maintenance costs for roads in Utah vary from $35 per lane mile to $16,000 per lane mile. He recommended that separate funds be set up for arterial roads and special problems.
Davis County Commissioner Dan McConkie said the cities in his county are interested in gaining some control, such as setting speed limits on what are now state roads. But again, funding is the concern.
"Don't pass the bucks without passing the bucks," McConkie said.
Other commissioners agreed that switching some roads does make sense. Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi said his county is willing to take a look at assuming responsibility for some state roads.