A bill to update the state’s road tolling system — and which would likely lead to a toll road up Little Cottonwood Canyon — received its first thumbs-up from a Senate committee Wednesday.
As Senate President, Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, doesn’t often sponsor legislation. But Little Cottonwood Canyon lies within his district, and Niederhauser said congestion from the canyon has gotten much worse in recent years.
Niederhauser told the Senate Transportation Committee that when the canyon closes for avalanche control after fresh snowfall, cars get “backed up for miles” on Wasatch Boulevard and into neighborhoods. “And I can’t even get out of my subdivision,” he said.
S.B. 71 would “modernize” the state’s road tolling system, Niederhauser said. He envisions an electronic system, possibly with license plate readers to capture vehicle information and bill drivers.
The state ends up paying about $600 million each year from its general fund to subsidize roads. Niederhauser said he’d prefer that money went to other uses such as education.
Niederhauser also predicts that the gasoline tax will be nearly “obsolete” in the next five to 10 years, as electric vehicles become more widely available.
“Most of us agree that if you use the roads, you should pay for the roads,” he said. “But how are we going to fund them? Tolling has to be one of those options.”
Other senators agreed. Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, called road tolling “good tax policy.”
The committee unanimously approved the bill, which will now be heard before the full Senate.