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Utah highway projects could lose nearly a half-billion dollars in funding over the next 11 years if a bill passes to divert some sales-tax revenue now earmarked for transportation to water projects including, perhaps, a controversial Lake Powell pipeline.
The diversion could delay such things as continuing work to convert Bangerter Highway into a freeway, and construction of the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway in Davis and Weber.
Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, delivered that information Tuesday in answer to questions from legislators who oversee UDOT's budget. They wanted to know what SB80 would do to transportation projects. That bill would create a water projects fund and divert a 1/16-cent sales tax to it and away from transportation. A Senate committee has already endorsed the bill.
Critics worry the new water fund could be used for a controversial Lake Powell pipeline to increase water supplies in southwestern Utah. Several lawmakers also have worried that it may hurt needed road projects.
UDOT estimated that through the next 11 years, that diversion would take away $472.6 million from transportation projects. The agency also gave legislators a list of envisioned projects that have not been funded which could be delayed by that cut.
Those include such things as converting several more intersections on Bangerter Highway into freeway-like interchanges; making the interchange of University Parkway and State Street in Orem a freeway-like interchange; and upgrading the Kimball Junction interchange on Interstate 80 near Park City.
It could also impact the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway; extending the Southern Parkway near St. George; expanding Porter Rockwell Boulevard in southern Salt Lake County; and several projects to widen I-15 or improve interchanges.
Braceras noted that Gov. Gary Herbert has proposed cuts in transportation that would be nearly as large. Herbert proposed to cut $10 million next year, $20 million the next, $30 million the next, and so forth, until $50 million a year are cut.
Over 11 years, that would bring a cut of $450 million.
Braceras said the governor's proposal will not delay currently programmed projects, but it could delay projects in long-range plans where funding has not yet been identified.