A bill allowing the state of Utah to bond for $1 billion to accelerate needed highway projects had little trouble getting through the Utah Legislature in its final hours earlier this month.
The bill, SB277, will allow the state to borrow up to $1 billion spread out over four years to fast-track high-priority road projects through the Utah Department of Transportation.
The legislation appeared in the final days of legislative session. “This particular bond that we’re looking for is to let UDOT work through its current list of projects — trying not to make this a Christmas tree list, where everyone gets what they want, but to stick within the list that’s been currently set aside as needed,” said Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, the House sponsor.
John Gleason, a spokesman for UDOT, says the bond will allow them to expedite projects that have already been approved by the Transportation Commission, such as lane widenings on I-15 or repairs to interchanges.
“Say that you had a project that’s slated to begin in the construction season of 2021 and they wanted to move it up to 2019. This bonding would allow them to do that,” he said.
Only three representatives voted against the bill, even as some expressed reservations about how projects would be prioritized.
Senate sponsor Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said the Utah Transportation Commission would choose which projects to speed up from its lists of already approved work, and would likely target those needed the most or where savings would be the greatest.
Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said many projects already high on such lists include improving various sections of Interstate 15 along the Wasatch Front. “It carries the most traffic. It is where we see the most congestion,” he said.
The $1 billion in bonding would come over four years, as needed, and would have a 15-year payback period. The bill requires that the state not exceed 50 percent of its constitutional debt limit for the bonds.