Three months ago, the Transportation Interim Committee didn't even want to talk about transferring responsibility for certain state roads to local governments.
Wednesday, state lawmakers were so encouraged by a proposal from Utah's city and county governments that they agreed to spend an entire day in September trying, once and for all, to resolve the 10-year-old issue.The Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties presented a plan to the committee that calls for the transfer of 492 miles of state roads to local control.
That's a lot of roads but fewer than the nearly 4,200 miles that could have been handed over to locals in the original version of SB176, considered by the Legislature earlier this year.
The city-county proposal also outlines how state road money should be distributed to local governments so they can maintain and improve those roads. It establishes seven categories of transferable roads - from high-use "urban principal arterials" all the way down to "rural minor collectors." Each lane-mile of road in each category would receive the same amount of state funding.
The proposal, presented Wednesday by Utah County engineer Clyde Naylor and Midvale City Manager Lee King, was well received.
"I think you guys have done a tremendous job of putting this together," said Sen. John P. Holmgren, R-Bear River City, the committee's co-chairman. "We sure don't want to pick this apart at this point."
After taking more than a month to digest the proposal, committee members might in fact shoot it down when they hold their special meeting Sept. 24. But the committee's willingness to consider the compromise means it is more likely to do what the final version of SB176 instructed it to do - study the issue and make a recommendation, or even propose a bill.
The Utah Department of Transportation wouldn't mind getting rid of some of the roads it services. UDOT officials feel that roads now at the bottom of their priority list would be at the top of local governments' lists and therefore be given more attention.
Some local governments, particularly in the urban areas, want control of some state roads that cross their territories because they want to decide what the speed limits should be, where access to those roads should be allowed and other policy issues.
But some city, town and county officials, particularly in rural areas, don't believe they could be given enough state money to maintain the roads as well as the state now can. Few rural roads are included in the 492-mile list.
Naylor and King said a voter-option sales tax, at the county level, could supplement state road funds. The city-county proposal also would set up a hardship fund in cases where the allotted funding does not pay for needed repair or improvements.
The plan does not consider the fate of personnel no longer needed by UDOT to maintain roads it would abandon. But King suggested that issue could be worked out between UDOT and local governments on a case-by-case basis.
King said when a transferred road crosses several cities' boundaries, like Redwood Road in Salt Lake County, the cities could take control of the road but the county could perform maintenance - ensuring that work is consistent.
Here are some of the roads that local governments are willing to take if the funding is adequate, according to the city-county plan:
- Davis County - Oak Hills Drive and Freedom Road in Layton, part of U-110, Burke Lane and 200 West in Farmington.
- Salt Lake County - Parts of 500 South and 600 South, North Temple, Redwood Road, State Street, 3300 South and 3500 South, 4500 South and 4700 South, 5400 South, 7800 South, 9000 South, 10600 South in South Jordan, 12300 South, 14600 South, U-190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon and U-210 in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
- Utah County - Much of U.S. 89, University Parkway in Orem and Provo, Center Street in Provo, 500 West in Lehi, 500 East in American Fork, 400 South in Springville, Main Street in Spanish Fork, Alpine Highway, Benjamin Highway, Cedar Hills Highway, Geneva Road, Goshen Highway, Lake Shore Highway, Old Highway 91, Salem Highway and West Lake Road.