New registration fee: too little, too late
March 29, 2006
Summit County’s measly proposal to tag another $10 onto automobile registration fees is a poorly conceived attempt to rectify years of inadequate traffic planning. According to the county’s public works director, the fee would only raise about $500,000 per year, not enough, at Park City’s current land prices, to secure a meaningful right of way to alleviate the traffic congestion currently clogging Kimball Junction.
Admittedly, a ten-spot isn’t a big deal when a new car buyer is already forking out hundreds of dollars in county registration fees and state sales taxes, but the philosophy behind the fee and the uncertainty about how it will be divvyed up across the county make it a bitter bill to pay.
Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme was justified in trying to put the brakes on the plan at this week’s commission meeting in Coalville. Residents on the East Side of the county, he said are fed up with being taxed to support the burgeoning West Side.
As well they should be.
When development along State Road 224 exploded in the 1990s, a handful of county planners called on the commission to adopt a comprehensive transportation plan, to delineate future road corridors before developments were approved and to enact transportation impact fees to ensure that new growth paid for the infrastructure necessary to accommodate thousands of new homes and millions of square feet of commercial development.
Those proposals, however, faced a daunting uphill battle and, for the most part, were scrubbed from the agenda.At the same time, Summit County’s state highways got a windfall of federal transportation funds to help roll out the Olympic welcome mat. Kimball Junction got funding for artwork, overpasses and median beautification, but locally-oriented practicalities like traffic lights, turnout lanes and secondary arteries were ignored.
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The result is an autobahn lined with residential subdivisions. S.R. 224 has essentially become an elongated off ramp that is the only route between three ski areas and the airport, between Park City commuters’ bedrooms and their Salt Lake offices, between local schools and between hungry residents and the nearest grocery store.
To be fair, the sitting county commissioners did not create the hodgepodge of subdivisions and businesses that comprise Kimball Junction. Nevertheless, their plan to hike registration fees to pay for planning that no one will adhere to or for overpriced road easements after the area is already built out, won’t solve the problem. It would only serve to further divide the East and West sides of the county.
Instead, the commission should review the expensive transportation studies that have already been paid for and should recommit to making new growth pay its own way including infrastructure for roads and traffic control.