A coalition of Utah County legislators, mayors, and commissioners is urging Utah state lawmakers to approve issuing bonds to start work on $5 billion of improvements to Interstate 15.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the section of the project needed most urgently runs from Spanish Fork to American Fork and is expected to cost $1.8 billion. The Utah County portion of the freeway has been identified as the worst choke point for traffic.

Valentine said that no new taxes would be required to pay off bonds needed for construction, which could begin in the spring of 2010. A quarter-cent sales tax assessed in Utah County would contribute $66 million to construction, with state revenues providing most of the coverage.

The second stage of construction widens I-15 from American Fork to 12300 South in Draper to five lanes, at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion. A third section from Spanish Fork to Payson would grow to five lanes at a cost of about $1.8 billion.

In his state of the state address last month, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. ordered the Utah Department of Transportation to reinstate major road projects that were delayed in November due to budget constraints.

When the I-15 work was not included on the reinstatement list, some Utah County officials took that to mean that the project remained on the shelf. However, UDOT officials said the I-15 project had never been officially delayed, so did not need reinstatement.

The Legislature, currently in session, is seeking ways to trim state spending as revenues continue to fall.

Cuts to education spending by 7.7%, or $194 million, by June 30 appear unlikely, despite previous discussions. The Executive Appropriations Committee decided last week to recommend lawmakers move $117 million from other budget items back into education this school year.

 

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