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$1 Billion Highway Bond Zips Through Legislature

Julia Ritchey, KUER
The Utah House discusses pending bills in the waning day of the Legislative session on March 7, 2017.

An 11th-hour, $1 billion transportation bonding bill gained passage on Tuesday despite some lawmakers’ reservations.

The bill, SB 277, would allow the state to borrow up to $1 billion spread out over four years to fast track high priority road projects through the Utah Department of Transportation.

The legislation popped up in the final days of Utah Legislature. After being introduced and passed out of the Senate on Monday evening, Rep. Francis Gibson, the House sponsor, urged his colleagues to do the same Tuesday morning.

“This particular bond that we’re looking for is to let UDOT work through its current list of projects — trying not to make this a Christmas tree list, where everyone gets what they want, but to stick within the list that's been currently set aside as needed,” he said.

John Gleason, a spokesman for UDOT, says the bond will allow them to expedite projects that have already been approved by the Transportation Commission, such as lane widenings on I-15 or repairs to interchanges.

“Say that you had a project that’s slated to begin in the construction season of 2021 and they wanted to move it up to 2019, this bonding would allow them to do that,” he said.

Only three representatives voted against the bill, even as some expressed reservations about how projects would be prioritized. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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