SB 71: Paving the Way for More Toll Roads
This bill passed the Senate with a 26-3 vote and the House with a vote of 49-21.
Its generally accepted that Utah has a transportation funding problem. As the gas tax continues to become less of a true user fee, transportation needs have blown a hole in Utah’s budget. Over half a billion dollars each year are earmarked from sales tax funds for transportation projects.
This situation makes the need for alternative funding models eminent. The Utah Legislature has been studying ideas like the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax and the future of autonomous cars in hopes of finding the right answers for Utah’s future growth, which will inevitably bring the need for more infrastructure.
President Wayne Niederhauser is exploring and expanding on one of these ideas via Senate Bill 71. His bill updates current law to allow for the use of modern technologies like electronic transponders, camera monitors, and automatic mailed citations.
President Niederhauser’s intention is for new toll roads to be established on roads like Little Cottonwood Canyon, where use has surged beyond capacity.
As Utah’s transportation funding problems continue to get worse, the answer is not to continually raise the gas tax, but to instead explore fundamental changes in current funding models that fund transportation expenses with true user fees. SB 71 helps move the needle in that direction.