Funding to boost Salt Lake transportation projects
Allocations totalling $1.5 million to acquire rights of way for three important west-side highway projects were approved Tuesday by the Salt Lake County Council.
The council also agreed to lay the legal groundwork for the county to issue $40 million in bonds early next year for transportation projects deemed "regionally significant." That money will be used for road work in five valley cities and the unincorporated county, along with Utah Transit Authority projects.
Tuesday's council actions put into play provisions of HB377, passed this year. The bill gives local government officials more discretion to spend funds previously dispensed by the state that come from a $10 vehicle registration fee enacted in 2005 to buy rights of way for future roads and to pay for construction, reconstruction or maintenance of large thoroughfares.
Since 2005, the Utah Department of Transportation has set aside $3 of that registration fee for right-of-way acquisition and held onto the other $7 to pay for state transportation bonds.
But Mayor Ben McAdams said lawmakers were convinced this year to turn over $5 of that $7 to Salt Lake County, which then would issue bonds for projects of local importance.
"What I like is this doesn't eat into our bonding capacity," McAdams said. "We're bonding against a revenue stream from the state."
That revenue stream is projected to approach $2 million this year and $4 million each year thereafter. With annual bond repayments of $3.2 million, an $800,000 surplus is expected to be directed annually into a soon-to-be-created regional development transportation fund to help cover the cost of future projects, said Darrin Casper, county chief financial officer.
Funds totaling $429,500 will go to West Jordan for three purchases that will complete corridor preservation along 5600 West between 7000 South and 7800 South, said Barbara Thomas, intergovernmental coordinator for the Salt Lake County Council of Governments.
Bluffdale will get $676,000 to buy 6.3 acres at 550 W. 14900 South for Porter Rockwell Boulevard, while Herriman will get $373,000 to purchase 1.1 acres on 13400 South at about 5000 West. While West Valley City was denied funds to buy parcels along 6200 South, Thomas said that city will be in line for the next funding round in six months.
No specific projects were identified to receive money from January's $40 million bond issuance. But the council authorized McAdams to negotiate interlocal agreements that would provide $12 million to Cottonwood Heights (some will be repaid with other funds); $8 million for the unincorporated area; $5 million each for West Valley City and UTA; $3.75 million for Salt Lake City; $3 million for Sandy; and $2.25 million for South Salt Lake.
With money from vehicle registration fees, nearly a dozen transportation projects in Salt Lake County will move forward. The County Council authorized:
Passing through $1.5 million to help purchase rights of way in Bluffdale along Porter Rockwell Boulevard; in Herriman at 13400 South; and in West Jordan at 5600 West.
Preparation of interlocal agreements to pass through proceeds of $40 million in bonds, to be issued next January, for Utah Transit Authority system improvements and work on "regionally significant roads" through the unincorporated county, South Salt Lake, Sandy, Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Cottonwood Heights.
Salt Lake County's economy continued to improve through the first two months of 2013.
County financial officer Lance Brown said sales tax revenues for that period are 7.5 percent above the same two-month period in 2012 and 1.9 percent above 2013 budget projections.
But the increase leveled off in February, he told the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday, and the recovery could be tested in coming months even more so next year by fallout from federal sequestration, the Jan. 1, 2014 implementation of the federal health-care law known as "Obamacare," and the landslide in Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine.
Brown said Kennecott's reduced production, announced layoffs and lower property-tax assessment in 2014 undoubtedly will ripple through the community. While "not good news for us," he noted, "our economy is not overly dependent on one taxpayer like we were 30 years ago [when Kennecott dominated the county's economy].
"Our 10 largest sales tax-payers generate less than 20 percent of our total sales-tax revenue," Brown added.