Published on November 20th, 2014 | by UC&D Magazine0
Utah Transportation Coalition
The Utah Transportation Coalition is a group of business and civic leaders working together to protect Utah’s environment, improve the economy and preserve our quality of life. Our transportation system affects each of those things. With Utah’s current and projected growth, we want to help Utahns enjoy all the best things that life in Utah has to offer, including better air quality, a strong economy and well-paying jobs. That’s why we advocate for transportation investment and a long-term funding solution. New capacity, maintenance, preservation and operation of our local and state transportation system will help keep Utah at the top of the list for best places to live, to work and to play. We invite those who share our interests in Utah’s future quality of life to join us and keep Utah moving.
Utahns are recognized for our willingness to collaborate and work proactively to solve difficult problems. We don’t sit back and wait for things to happen to us; we make things happen. Prudent investment today can put us in a better position tomorrow. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in recent transportation investments. Several decades ago, visionary leaders recognized there was a need and an opportunity to update and expand our transportation system. Today we see the benefits of those wise decisions in our enviable quality of life and robust economy. While other states languished during the great recession, our well-functioning transportation system helped Utah emerge from the recession more quickly than surrounding states and to remain a hub of economic activity with good jobs and strong opportunities. For example, a key reason Adobe Corporation chose to build a facility for over 900 employees in Utah County was because the site was well served by road and rail.
All Utahns benefit from safe mobility and efficient delivery of goods and services. While our population has surged in recent years, commute time has been kept in check. Less time spent driving means more time with our families and friends. By providing Utahns alternatives to driving, we’re gaining ground on air quality. Between 2008 and 2019, mobile source emissions are forecast to decline by 53% and current mobile source emissions comprise less than 50% of total emissions. We may take many of these benefits for granted, because when the transportation system works the way it should, you don’t notice it – you shouldn’t notice it.
The enviable quality of life we enjoy in Utah means more growth in our great state and our population is expected to double in the next 35 years. That will mean nearly twice as many miles driven on our roads, more goods and services to be delivered, more employees commuting and more errands to run. As we grow, we’ll need a well-planned, built and maintained transportation system of several different transportation modes providing new and better ways of getting around.
Utah’s leaders and transportation stakeholders are well aware of the challenges faced by our state. They collaborated to create the groundbreaking and nation’s first statewide transportation an; the Unified Transportation Plan. Utah’s plan is recognized as a national model for collaboration. The Plan identifies the balanced investments in road, transit and active transportation infrastructure that are needed across the state to stay ahead of the growth that is coming and also to respond to demographic shifts and market demand for a range
of housing and transportation choices. Implementing the Plan will increase access to jobs and educational opportunities, decrease harmful emissions, and provide for maintenance of the infrastructure we already have in place. In short, Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan is a roadmap for continuing our track record of sound leadership and prudent investment. Despite careful planning and execution, the priority needs identified in the Plan stretch beyond our current funding mechanisms. All told, there’s an $11 billion shortfall in transportation funding between now and 2040. The shortfall is split roughly into thirds for the state system, city and county facilities, and transit.
Governor Herbert and Utah’s legislative leaders have identified transportation funding as an important priority for the 2015 session. The Coalition couldn’t agree more. It is time to address the burgeoning problem and implement a long-term, predictable and sustainable funding plan. In the 18 years since Utah last raised the state gas tax, its buying power has declined by 48% even while transportation construction and material costs have increased by as much as 300%.
City and county governments are struggling to build and maintain their transportation facilities because their share of the gas tax covers less than one third of their transportation costs. And despite the rapid expansion of our transit system over the past 15 years, we still invest less in transit service than most of our peer regions.
If our leaders fail in implementing a solution, our system will deteriorate and our shortfall will expand. But, if we work together now to craft a comprehensive solution for transportation funding we will see tremendous benefits. The average Utah household will avoid a full day per year of being stuck in traffic. We will add 183,000 jobs to our state – some from construction but mainly from more businesses choosing to locate or expand in Utah. These are real outcomes … but timing matters. That’s why NOW is the time to advocate for transportation investment and a long- term funding solution. New capacity, maintenance, preservation and operation of our local and state transportation system will help keep Utah at the top of the list for best places to live, to work and to play. We invite those who share our interests in Utah’s future to contact your state representative and senator. Tell them to support Utah’s transportation system. Also consider joining the Utah Transportation Coalition by visiting www. utahtransportation.org.