Called Interim Session, monthly legislative committee meetings on Utah’s Capitol Hill allow time for Utah Legislators to study issues and gather information.
The Utah Legislature meets once per month (with the exception of July or August) outside of the regular legislative session that starts in January. Unlike regular or special sessions, no official bills are passed during Interim Session. Instead, committees meet to explore issues.
On Wednesday, June 23, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) representatives testified at the Transportation Interim Committee to present information and answer questions about delayed projects and road transfers. A recording of the interim committee meeting can be found on the legislature’s website.
Here is a synopsis of those issues from Linda Toy Hull, Director of Legislative and Government Affairs:
During the last regular legislative session, House Bill (H.B.) 438 reduced sales and use tax revenue dedicated to the Centennial Highway Fund/Transportation Investment Fund from 8.3% to 1.93% for Funding Year (FY) FY2010-2011, equivalent to a $113 million reduction in the state’s construction budget for new highway capacity projects. The Transportation Commission and UDOT were tasked with the responsibility of balancing the state’s highway construction program based on the new budget.
Three limiting factors drove which projects in the construction program were considered for delay:
- UDOT identified all projects that weren’t yet under a construction contract, these are the projects considered for delay by the Transportation Commission. Note: Projects that were already under a construction contract weren’t considered for delay because of the cost of delaying projects already under contract.
- Since funding cuts had to be made for FY2010-2011, only projects with funding programmed for those years could be considered.
- Since General Funds were cut, only projects funded with General Funds could be considered.
Utah Code requires the Utah Transportation Commission and UDOT to use a written, weighted project prioritization process (§72-1-304) for highway capacity projects. Accordingly, the commission previously developed a process and weighted criterion that uses extensive traffic and safety data collected by UDOT. The prioritization process was subject to public input through Rulemaking and was reviewed by the legislative Transportation Interim Committee prior to finalization of the commission rule in 2006.
Under that process, the factors used to prioritize highway projects are:
- Total traffic volume on a daily basis
- Truck traffic volumes to account for important freight routes
- A roadway’s level of congestion
- The “functional classification” of a road, which measures a road’s importance (high volume roads versus low volume roads)
- Safety (the rate of crashes on a road and the severity of injuries in those crashes)
- Projected growth in traffic
Based on data, a score is developed for each factor with a final total score on each highway project. That score is used by the commission and UDOT to prioritize projects. From the list of prioritized projects, the commission selected which projects would be affected by the budget reduction and the amount of funding to cut from each project to bring the program in balance with the reduced construction budget.
Based on current anticipated revenues and cash flow, funding will not be available until 2015 for those projects affected by the budget cut.
To minimize the impact to projects, UDOT identified more than $28 million in savings from other projects statewide mitigating the $113 million budget reduction, which enabled the Transportation Commission to reduce the total amount of funds that had to be cut from projects.
The Transportation Commission and UDOT are still committed to the delayed projects. However, under the current budget and revenue projections, funds will not be available until 2015. If economic conditions improve over time, a future legislature can consider restoring the $113 million budget reduction, which would allow funding to be restored to affected projects and begin construction earlier than currently projected.
Utah law requires that UDOT report to the legislature in June 30 and November 1 about ongoing and completed discussions of state roads that are being transferred to local governments. During the regular legislative session, a bill that reflects all transfer agreements is passed making those transfers part of the Utah State Code. Discussions with local government on possible transfer of state roads are underway. These discussions may or may not result in transfer agreements involving the following routes:
Transfers from state to local control:
- SR-107 (from SR-108 to State Street)
- US-89 in Ogden (Washington Blvd.)
- SR-48, realigned portion in West Jordan
- SR-73 and SR-197 in Utah County
- SR-212 Telegraph Road, St. George
- SR-8, in St. George
Transfer from local to state control:
North County Boulevard in Utah County
NOTE: In an ongoing effort to provide legislators with information about how to take care of Utah’s State Roads, an upcoming interim committee meeting yet to be determined, UDOT representatives will present and discuss maintenance and preservation needs.