Utah has a proud tradition of fiscal responsibility. Utah traces its trademark attribute of self-reliance back to its pioneer history. Our ancestors established a self-sustaining community that has been carried forward through Utah’s long tradition of fiscal responsibility. Stewardship of the state’s financial resources has included careful investment in infrastructure and the private sector, which support a healthy local economy. Economic prosperity, in turn, provides the resources to solve community issues and plan for the future.
How Utah currently funds transportation and transit
Utah has employed a variety of funding mechanisms for transportation investment. Our state legislature has proven time and again that Utah is invested in maintaining a strong transportation system with a preference for using local (rather than federal) dollars to maintain and improve our transportation system.
Major sources of funding are as follows:
- Transportation Investment Fund, including the Utah Fuel Tax
- A small portion of State Sales Tax from auto-related sales
- Federal funding
- Local Sales Tax, including a local option sales tax in Salt Lake and Utah Counties
- Rider fares and passenger revenues
- Federal funding
- Utah fuel tax – “Class B & C road funds”
- Local sales tax supplements as much of the remaining transportation funding need as possible
The Current Problem with Utah’s Transportation Funding
Put simply, traditional funding sources are no longer adequate. Utah’s current funding mechanisms won’t produce enough to cover all of Utah’s needed transportation projects. In other words, Utah’s transportation needs are outpacing transportation funding.
Here are the problems: efficiency, inflation and population growth. Don’t misunderstand, things like vehicle efficiency ultimately mean better air quality and a lower cost of driving. Moderate inflation and population growth could indicate a growing economy. But they don’t mean much when our transportation system can’t keep up.
As Utah continues to grow, our infrastructure and transportation system has to keep up. Our population will reach 3 million by 2015 and will double by 2050. In order to keep Utah moving, we’re faced with the challenge of not only maintaining, but also future-proofing our infrastructure.
Maintenance is no easy task. Roads, bridges, rails and other transportation assets require upkeep and occasional repair. Proper maintenance is critical to keep our transportation system functioning smoothly and to protect motorists and their vehicles.
Utah’s cities and counties are struggling to keep up with local transportation needs. City and county governments currently have only one-third to one-half the funds they need for transportation infrastructure. With limited budgets, rural roads tend to suffer.
To further compound the problem, inflation has further reduced our revenue’s buying power. The buying power of the gas tax, for example, has decreased by 48% since 1997. Some transportation material costs have also increased, by as much as 300 percent over the last decade.
Vehicles have never been more fuel efficient, and they are only getting better. While cars using less gas is great, it means that we collect less gas tax is collected to fund Utah’s transportation priorities.