Grant money may become loan
Ryan Summerlin February 26, 2013
Summit County cities may soon be required to repay to the county funds used to preserve transportation corridors if the Local Transportation Corridor Preservation Fund Amendments bill is signed into law by the governor.
H.B. 11, sponsored by Bradley Last, R-Hurricane, proposes to alter the existing Local Transportation Corridor Preservation Fund law, passed in 2005, which allows counties to charge a $10 per vehicle fee for the purpose of preserving transportation corridors.
"Those funds are very useful to help ensure our transportation system continues to work well in the county," Summit County Transportation Engineer Kent Wilkerson said. "The theory is, you buy the right-of-way now, well in advance, so that you don’t have to buy a house later."
Wilkerson admitted that some Summit County cities have greater need of the fund than others, but that everyone benefits.
"I don’t pretend they are all equal, but it’s not like a water system where we stop at our community line. Those users travel county-wide, so hopefully it’s beneficial even if they don’t have an immediate need," he said.
Under H.B. 11, counties will be able to administer the funds through a revolving loan account, instead of as grants, allowing the money to be used for a wider variety of projects.
"It allows more flexibility, but it would basically be like making a loan to ourselves," Wilkerson said.
However, allowing cities the option to borrow money would be beneficial in cases where opportunities to purchase rights-of-way become available before the projects are fully funded, he added.
"Then you can actually fund the purchase of the right-of-way, and then when the project is funded through whichever source, it can pay the community back for it. It’s just another option," he said.
The Summit County Council of Governments (COG), which is made up of all the Summit County mayors and three county commissioners, is tasked with reviewing fund applications and making recommendations to the Summit County Council on how the funds should be used.
The County Council then makes the final determination and COG releases the funds.
Likewise, if Herbert signs the bill, COG will make a recommendation on whether to administer the funds through a revolving loan fund.
The Summit County fund collects $450,000 a year, and has accumulated $1.9 million. From that amount, cities have requested $1.3 million worth of transportation corridor projects.
"I expected a surge this year," Wilkerson said. "But if we look at the fundability to provide right-of-way for the roads, it actually looks like it will be a fairly good source without it bleeding too rapidly."
The county has three transportation plans that define local corridors: the pending Eastern Summit County Transportation Plan, the Snyderville Basin Transportation Plan and the Park City Transportation Plan.
"Those transportation plans identify most of the rights-of-way we need, so even though we have a little bit of a surge on requests, I think the fund will service us well," Wilkerson said.