SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill aimed at funding transportation projects for the coming years would reduce the state's bonding limits and provide money for at least three Top of Utah projects.
Approved Monday morning in a House committee, HB173 reduces the state's potential debt on road projects by $130 million over a three-year period and addresses many transportation projects already prioritized, said Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, the bill's sponsor.
It also takes the state's bonding capacity from 85 percent to 83 percent.
Bonding limits are outlined in the state Constitution and lawmakers have been concerned that bonding has gone up from normal levels of 30 to 40 percent to more than 85 percent of the limit.
Dee said he met with officials of the Utah Department of Transportation over the weekend to discuss funding priorities, and he said the cost savings over a three-year period are being generated by smarter project management. He said there is cost factoring involved in the savings, as well.
The funding allocation includes $28 million for improvements to Riverdale Road, $7 million for modifications to the 2600 South interchange in Woods Cross and $8 million for interchange modifications on I-15 in the Layton area. The transportation measure now advances for consideration by the House.
Carlos Braceras, deputy director for UDOT, said his agency and the governor's office strongly support the bill. He described the move to reduce bonding as "very good," and said the funding represents a mixture of projects.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who chairs the Senate's Executive Appropriations Committee, worried at the onset of the session that Utah was in danger of losing its AAA bonding rating if the level of bonding wasn't addressed.
He said a reduction in the bonding rating would affect the ability of school districts to borrow money to build schools and for other projects. He suggested the bonding issue was even more important than the political impact of local road projects.