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Murray • Word is out that the Utah Transportation Commission has an extra $100 million to spend to improve "recreational hot spots," and local areas are starting to lobby for shares of it.

The Legislature this year directed spending $100 million to reduce congestion and help economic development around recreational areas as part of bill that approved borrowing $1 billion over four years to accelerate highway projects.

The commission, which will decide which projects to fund, on Friday approved the criteria and process it will use to evaluate projects. Some local officials showed up to start lobbying.

Curt Hutchings, transportation director for the Five Counties Association of Governments, told the commission his group is trying to create a public transit route between St. George and Zion National Park to reduce congestion — and made a pitch for part of the money.

Commissioner Naghi Zeenati, who lives in St. George, said something is needed to reduce congestion at Zion.

Shane Marshall, deputy director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said others who already are pushing for a share of that money include people trying to reduce congestion in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County, Bear Lake, Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

The commission invited local officials statewide to contact UDOT if they have a project that might qualify.

The commission said Friday it will use four key criteria to judge projects for a share of the money: how well it mitigates congestion; how it will help recreation; how it may help promote and improve tourism; and how it will assist economic development.

Commissioners hope to have a list of proposals for consideration in August.

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