By Brice Wallace
Looking to assuage concerns about a possible public infrastructure district (PID) related to the Utah Inland Port, port authority officials recently conducted an informational meeting to reiterate or expound upon information presented at an earlier meeting.
The idea of a PID to pay for several projects at the port was discussed Sept. 8, but a vote related to the PID’s creation and the authorization of the issuance of related infrastructure bonds — up to $150 million — to finance those projects was delayed after Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Amy Fowler, as well as vocal port critics, raised questions about the PID.
Among the proposed projects is a transloading facility to ease the movement of imports and exports through Utah.
Speakers during the informational session said the PID is a capital financing tool that would have no land use or jurisdictional authority. Infrastructure may be financed by issuing bonds that are repayable from property taxes or assessments on the property within the PID. It would not create new taxes.
“It’s not applying a tax rate to the area,” said Benj Becker, a vice president in the special district group at Piper Sandler. “It’s not increasing the taxes of existing residents who live within the public infrastructure district. It has no impact whatsoever on those outside of the Inland Port Authority residing in Salt Lake City in terms of taxes.
“There’s no proposal for a mill levy or increase to any of the properties that already exist within the Inland Port Authority, and, again, this does not change any taxes whatsoever to other residents of Salt Lake City or of surrounding municipalities at all.”
Any property tax increases in the PID area would need consent of all of the property owners. “People have this say in what happens with their taxes in this area,” Becker said.
Becker said other states use similar tools to finance infrastructure projects upfront.
The transloading crossdock facility would be on 43 acres adjacent to the Union Pacific intermodal hub and transfer goods from inbound rail containers to larger containers for domestic movement by rail or truck. Currently 90 percent of cargo entering the market comes by truck, so the facility’s use of rail would reduce the truck traffic into the market.
Jill Flygare, the port authority’s chief operating officer, said the facility “will reduce the number of truck trips and overall costs within the system by consolidating cargo and optimizing freight flows.” It will reduce the impacts of air emissions from trucks as well, create more shipping options to international markets and “reduce the stress on an already overburdened system,” she said.
Other projects being contemplated are a renewable refueling station, a public-private partnership with Stadler Rail to provide a site for day care and dining options during off-hours, turning an existing building into a U.S. Customs bonded warehouse, a North Temple rail line and the buildout of 7200 West.
Flygare said the projects would provide several benefits.
“They help in moving this area forward. They assist in moving cargo more efficiently. They help in getting trucks out of adjacent neighbors. They help in reducing the air emissions that we all breathe, whether we’re in the jurisdiction, in the adjacent neighborhoods, or, heck, if we’re in West Jordan or in Ogden. It’s all the same airshed, so it helps all of us as we’re moving forward.”
Speakers also stressed that that port authority would retain the ability to appoint members to the PID board, and the board’s meetings would be open to the public.
A meeting to vote on the PID has not been scheduled.