Friday , November 18, 2016 - 4:45 AM
Maria Aguirre, of Ogden, gets on the bus at the bus stop near 32nd Street and Harrison Boulevard in Ogden on Monday, May 16, 2016.
This summer and fall, the Utah Transit Authority and local municipalities have used the quarter-cent sales tax to build a new network of sidewalks, trails, bike lanes and transit.
And officials say this year’s work is only the beginning.
Passed by voters in November 2015, Prop 1 provides counties that approved it with annual dollars for road projects, sidewalks, bike and pedestrian paths, and increased mass transit service.
The local-option tax was on the ballot in 17 of Utah's 29 counties in 2015, and it passed in 10 of those counties. Residents in both Weber and Davis counties voted for the tax, but the measure failed in Morgan and Box Elder counties. The tax doesn’t apply to medical bills, utilities, mortgages, loan payments, gas, prescriptions or groceries. Forty percent of the tax goes to cities, 40 percent goes to UTA and 20 percent goes to counties.
UTA engineer Jacob Splan said the agency has made improvements to 44 bus stops using Prop 1 money. The work included things like new benches, large waiting shelters, new cement pads, sidewalk enhancements and making the stops ADA-compliant.
The improvements have been made on stops as far south as Woods Cross and as far north as Pleasant View, Splan said. UTA is also working with Weber Pathways and other cities to connect trails in the area and build bike lanes. Along with more bus stop work, Splan said there are 150 such projects on UTA’s radar for future Prop 1 spending.
“Those are getting into the survey and design mode, but you’ll see some of these new trail connections coming soon,” he said. “It’s going to be a couple years of heavy push with these projects. There’s more to come.”
The agency also increased bus service with the money.
Eddy Cumins, regional general manager of UTA’s Mount Ogden Business Unit, said in Weber and Davis counties, UTA focused on early morning, late evening and weekend routes, increasing service on those routes by 36 percent.
“We basically tried to fill in the gaps and improve on what we already have,” Cumins said.
For example, the agency increased stop frequency from every hour to every 30 minutes on Route 470’s Sunday service and Route 640’s Saturday service. The 470 runs between Ogden and Salt Lake City, and the 640 runs between the Layton Hills Mall and Weber State University.
Since August, Cumins said, ridership on those routes has gone up 33 percent and 47 percent, respectively.
Cumins said Prop 1 also funded new routes in Davis County. The Midtown Trolley service, a free route that runs between the Clearfield and Layton FrontRunner stations, and the year-round extension of the Lagoon Shuttle were funded by Prop 1.
“And this isn’t it — we’re going to keep going,” Cumins said. “As far as we’re concerned, these are ongoing funds.”
Though a baseline plan has already been established, UTA will meet with customers and municipalities to fine tune improvements for next year’s Prop 1 allocation.
Apart for UTA’s work, individual cities also used the money to catch up on deferred road maintenance.
North Ogden in particular finished several road maintenance projects the city would have had to wait on otherwise.
Mayor Brent Taylor said seven of the city’s 10 busiest roads saw maintenance work as a result of Prop 1 and a $3 per month utility fee recently instituted by the city. The city’s first-ever bike lanes along 1050 East and Elberta Drive were also funded with the money.
“In my view, Prop 1 was one of the best things to ever happen in Weber County for transportation,” Taylor said. “There was a backlog of deferred maintenance. When the recession hit, budgets went down and road work suffered. More money isn’t always the answer in government, but when it came to our roads, more money is what we needed.”