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UTA officials travel the world at cost of more than $600,000
Transit » In a year and a half, the authority spent $610,000 on global expeditions.

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For example, the idea of accelerated bridge construction came from conferences attended by UDOT engineers and allows removing and replacing bridges over a weekend by building new bridges to the side of highways and sliding them into place, Easton says.

Likewise, ideas for fancy new types of intersections to speed traffic flow also came from conferences.

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Much of UDOT’s travel has been to lobby in Washington, D.C., for highway funds. The UDOT employee who traveled the most was Linda Hull, its director of legislative and government affairs and chief lobbyist. She spent $14,185 in the past year and a half, mostly on trips to Washington.

UDOT Executive Director John Njord ranked No. 7 for travel among his agency’s employees. He spent $5,209 on out-of-state travel in the past year and a half, mostly for trips to Washington, D.C. — plus conferences in Boston, Detroit, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida and New Mexico.

Top UTA brass » The top officials at UTA travel much farther and more frequently. UTA did not have individual cost information for Inglish and Allegra, but travel by the general manager’s office — which paid for the travel of the pair — amounted to $79,625 in the past year and a half.

Inglish made 43 UTA-funded trips, including 10 abroad, in the past 2½ years. Allegra made 41 trips, seven of them abroad.

Inglish declined an interview and deferred to Allegra and UTA Board Chairman Greg Hughes to explain UTA’s philosophy.

Allegra says the most important reason for travel is to learn from other transit systems.

"When I first started looking at light rail, when John Inglish and I were babies, we visited every light rail property in the United States. I think that benefited Utah tremendously by learning mistakes and the good things from everywhere else," he says. "Our network has really expanded beyond this country now. Europe and other places have been running transit systems twice as long as we have. And they have some incredible practices that we’re advantaged by taking a look at."

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Benefits » Hughes, chairman of the UTA board and a state legislator, told the board at its August meeting how much he recently benefited from a trip to Switzerland.

"It opened my eyes. I hear conceptually a lot about mountain transportation and how Switzerland with its efficiency was able to move people." But he said seeing the operations firsthand was crucial to understanding them and creating a vision of what is possible for the Wasatch canyons.

"If I were Howard Hughes, or if I was related to Howard Hughes, I would pay for every one of my colleagues in the Legislature to go and see this," Hughes said, explaining that, without seeing it, "I don’t think you can appreciate it."

Besides the Switzerland trip, Hughes has also traveled to Hong Kong, Australia, San Antonio, Sacramento, Portland (three times) and Washington, D.C., for UTA.

Eleven of the 15 UTA board members went to Portland last year for one of its monthly meetings to look at transit there.

UTA also paid for Portland trips for mayors or city council members from Provo, Ogden, Murray, Taylorsville, Herriman and West Valley City to look at bus rapid transit or streetcar systems similar to some proposed for those cities. UTA did not say how much those trips cost.

Noting that UTA doesn’t have control over such things as local planning, zoning and condemnation, Hughes says "We are encouraging and asking other political jurisdictions to come and look at these things with us so we will be on the same page."

UTA top brass aren’t the only travelers. Andrea Packer, director of communications, for example, made 25 trips in the past 2.5 years. That included travel to Cuba, Switzerland (three times), Vancouver and unspecified Asian countries. The cost of her individual travel was not disclosed, although the "chief communications officer" office spent $49,230 on travel in that time.

Nice severance » Much of UTA travel has been to allow top officials to appear at meetings of international transportation groups. Inglish did that while he was no longer involved in day-to-day UTA operations — but was drawing a big salary as a severance.

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