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$60 billion needed over 20 years for Utah roads, water, waste facilities

First Published      Last Updated Feb 24 2015 10:47 pm

Report card » Engineering group says maintenance and major repairs are overdue; careful planning is required to meet the state’s increasing needs.

Much of Utah's aging water, transportation and waste facilities are in mediocre condition and will require more than $60 billion worth of improvements and maintenance during the next 20 years to meet the needs of the state's rapid growth.

So says a report card issued Tuesday, after two years of study, by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

That $60 billion price tag "comes out to around $40,000 per family," says David W. Eckhoff, project director for the report card. "To me, that emphasizes why we need to do some planning to get good efficiencies in place" and prioritize needs.

Eckhoff adds that about half of the projected cost is for repair, renovation and replacement of facilities that are often 60 to 70 years old. The other half is needed to meet the needs of a projected doubling of Utah's population in the next 20 years.

Eckhoff says earthquakes and climate change add to the challenges the state faces.

"The report card reveals that Utah has some of the best transportation infrastructure in the country," says Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council. "This is due in large part to the prudent investments we have made in the past. However, more still needs to be done."

The report gave an overall grade of C-plus for the current condition of Utah facilities. Individual grades range from a high of a B-plus for transit, roads and bridges, to a low of a D-minus for levees.

The report card comes as the Legislature debates how to raise or reform the gasoline tax to help cover part of a projected $11.3 billion shortfall for priority transportation and transit projects through 2040.

It turns out those facilities are in better condition than those for water and waste.

Here are the grades in some key areas:

Drinking water and supply, grade C • "As reduced snowpack supply meets a growing population, aggressive water conservation alone may not be adequate," the report says, "and new, significant infrastructure solutions must be considered."

It projects that through 2060, repair and replacement of existing water facilities will cost $17.9 billion. Needed new facilities will cost another $14.8 billion.

Roads, B-plus • "Many of Utah's roads are over 50 years old, although most state-maintained pavement surfaces have had some kind of surface treatment in the past 10 years," the report says. "Data shows that less-traveled roads and local roads are receiving less maintenance than needed. Since 1990, new lane miles in Utah have increased by only 6 percent, yet during that same time period, Utah's population has increased by 60 percent and travel miles increased by roughly 80 percent."

Transit, B-plus • "With more than 100 miles of fixed guideway services and over 46 million annual riders, several transit providers have significantly improved their services over the past 30 years," mostly by the Utah Transit Authority, the report says.

"Utah's transit systems have been built with significant capacity, but challenges will include maintenance, operation, and modest upgrades of systems as they age as well as proper ticket pricing."

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