During the Monday opening of the Utah legislative session, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser listed infrastructure as a priority for the 2018 session.
“It’s infrastructure items that creep up on us, and that stark day for me was about six months ago, when I realized that we are facing huge congestion on our freeways today, and on our state roads and local roads,” he said.
Niederhauser emphasized the economic impact of Utah’s infrastructure.
“And this is after several billion dollars of investment over the last couple of decades,” he said. “This is a huge issue for us, and we’re going to have to do a lot of work to meet the needs of our infrastructure going forward.”
Later, during a press conference, Niederhauser said the state’s infrastructure plays a key role in one of the biggest questions facing lawmakers during this legislative session: balancing the budget.
“By far, the biggest problem in the general fund is we spend $600 million of it on transportation,” he said. “That’s the problem.”
Possible solutions to help make up the money include a gas tax and toll roads. However, Niederhauser expressed concern about a gas tax, saying that in 10 to 20 years, many cars on the road may not be running on gas.
Niederhauser is the sponsor of SB0071, titled Road Tolls Provisions, which proposes changes to the enforcement of toll roads, including allowing the Department of Transportation to impose penalties for non-payment and use camera monitoring. The bill was submitted to the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee for consideration on Monday.