Recent completion of the massive widening and rebuilding of Interstate 15 in Utah County plus the first phase of the Mountain View Corridor in Salt Lake County may help speed traffic, but officials say they are creating an extra drain on already inadequate highway maintenance funds.
So the Legislature is considering increasing annual funding for road maintenance by 1.4 percent adding an extra $4.56 million to handle it. It is also looking at a one-time extra appropriation of $790,000 to buy snow removal and other equipment needed for the new extra-wide I-15 segment.
Even with the increase, the Utah Department of Transportation told the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Committee that funding shortfalls in recent years have led it to allow smaller rural state highways to deteriorate in order to maintain at higher levels freeways and other busy highway stretches that have at least 2,000 cars or 500 trucks a day.
UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras said that for smaller rural highways totalling 2,700 miles of roads in the state UDOT merely fills potholes and resolves other problems as they appear, and has dropped most preventive maintenance.
Legislative fiscal analysts issued a brief Friday saying "an additional $40 million ongoing funding is estimated to be needed to maintain all pavements with good and fair thresholds." UDOT has said since the state does not have that, it is targeting best maintenance for highways that are used the most.
The fiscal analysts also noted that UDOT added, or is adding, 498 additional lane miles with projects such as the I-15 rebuild and Mountain View. It said adding them tends "to dilute resource availability for maintenance needs on all roads in the state system."
UDOT Executive Director John Njord also said the new section of I-15 is the widest in the state. He said UDOT needs new types of plows to clear snow across more lanes there. He said snow must also be hauled away from many areas there where sides of the road are lined by walls so snow cannot merely be pushed to the side.
Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, Senate chair of the committee, said, "I love to build new roads, but my biggest concern now is maintaining them. ... If we have them, we better take care of them."