Park City and Summit County put transportation funding talks into gear
Summit County and Park City officials are beginning to paint a clearer picture of what it will take to start reducing the number of cars on the road.
"Congestion is not the problem," County Council Chair Roger Armstrong said. "It is more the outcome of job growth and land use."
County officials say attributing the traffic issues to growth in the Snyderville Basin and Park City is a common misconception. According to a county staff report, population growth has actually been below the state average. However, the number of jobs available in the county has increased by more than 20 percent.
The report goes on to say that between 2010 and 2015, daily vehicles trips increased nearly 11 percent on State Roads 224 and 248. Trips on Interstate 80 increased by nearly 15 percent.
Last week, the Summit County and Park City Councils, along with members of their staffs, met in a joint session at the Sheldon Richins Building to review their overall transportation goals and the specific projects to accomplish them.
After the nearly two-hour conversation, that included discussions about paid parking and non-transit solutions such as requirements for developers, council members agreed to form a subcommittee to further explore the funding options that are available to each entity.
"We want to make sure that we are viewing these mechanisms in a holistic way so that we understand the implications of each one of them," said Caroline Ferris, Summit County regional transportation director. "There are some funding mechanisms that if the county goes after the city may lose some money and vice versa. We don’t want that to happen."
Over the last several weeks, County Council members Roger Armstrong and Claudia McMullin met with county staff to prioritize a list of projects and identify ways to fund them. In February, councilors were asked to consider from the following options: increase property taxes, implement a sales and use tax, form private partnerships or take on long-term debts.
The subcommittee crafted a narrow list of the "greatest improvements for the least cost in the shortest amount of time," Ferris said. Some of the projects include expanding transit service into South Summit, adding remote parking locations and capacity improvements for roads and intersections primarily in the Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook neighborhoods.
Ferris said to complete the entire list of about 15 projects would cost $20-25 million.
"When I say we could get everything done, I am talking about comprehensive projects," Ferris said. "But I think our situation is a little different (than Park City’s) because we can invest in many different areas and we have a larger variety of projects that feed into our system for that price."
Matt Leavitt, Summit County finance officer, said as he is approached about financing transit-related projects he is reminded of a cartoon depicting a man with his empty pockets hanging inside out.
"All existing county resources are pretty much tapped and we would have to cut existing programs or we will have to find additional resources," Leavitt said. "Looking at moving forward, the subcommittee will review funding sources and matching resources with those projects.
"It’s important we work together with the municipalities, especially Park City," he said. " imposing one solution or another we may have unintended consequences. We need to come up with a solution that is mutually beneficial to all parties."
Nate Rockwood, a Park City budget official, said the city’s situation is similar to the county’s projects. He said the city also has a couple of funding options to pursue, including a sales tax for transit and a bond for infrastructure.
"The city will continue going after federal funds, while looking at ways to make the current revenue sources and system more sufficient," Rockwood said.
Alfred Knotts, Park City’s transportation planning manager, said the prioritized list for the city ranges between $13-20 million. Knotts said one of the city’s highest priorities is improving the State Road 248 corridor to provide congestion relief and safety improvements.
Some of the project elements for S.R. 248 include BRT/HOV lanes, along with improvements to the Richardson Flat and Park City High School access points and wayfinding and aesthetic enhancements.
City Council member Tim Henney said he is mainly interested in how money is allocated and ensuring "we are getting our bang for the buck."
"My concern is whether we are continuing to put money into the old model of transportation or if we are putting the appropriate amount into other alternatives," Henney said.
Armstrong said it is "wise for us to form a subcommittee and spend a few weeks to figure that out." Armstrong said officials are just now starting to understand what the economic commitments are going to look like.
"Our goal is to report back a bigger picture in term of financing mechanisms in order to not run out of time in August," Armstrong said.
If county officials want to pursue the funding options that are available, they have to adhere to a specific timeline regarding public hearings and adoption of ballot resolutions in order to allow the public to weigh in. The subcommittee is tentatively scheduled to meet with the councils on June 1.
Park City Mayor Jack Thomas said transportation is "one of those issues that is more holistic and has to be looked at completely."
"We will continue to work together through the process," Thomas said. "Our success in this matter relates to how well we work together and the fact that we recognize we need to solve the whole problem."
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