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Bill passed by legislature endangers Summit County transit funds

A snowy Kimball Junction Transit Center
Connor Thomas
A snowy Kimball Junction Transit Center

Summit County officials worry a new bill in Utah’s legislature will not only take away their control over Kimball Junction development, but it could jeopardize High Valley Transit funding, too.

High Valley Transit Executive Director Caroline Rodriguez worries that Senate Bill 84 will prevent her organization from getting state funding for improvements to bus routes along state Route 224.

HVT’s funding is tangled up in the question of whether Summit County officials complied with state law about moderate income housing. Counties that follow the law get priority when it comes to funding from the Utah Transportation Commission.

County officials have said that SB84 seems targeted to allow Dakota Pacific Real Estate to build a mixed-use development at the Summit Tech Park. But Rodriguez says the bill may be vague enough to endanger transit funding.

“That is because Summit County wasn't actually the recipient of that grant, High Valley Transit was,” Rodriguez said. “But the way that our attorney reads the legislation is that that prohibition in funding would apply not only to Summit County, but any district within the county that is not deemed in compliance with this moderate income housing plan.”

The Transportation Commission awarded High Valley Transit $30 million to improve state Route 224 bus service and $2 million for new electric buses and chargers last year. But funding won’t actually kick in until fiscal year 2024. Rodriguez says that state legislators might not have meant to freeze Bus Rapid Transit funding.

“In speaking to some of the legislators, they said it wasn't their intent to prevent the BRT or any other transit funding,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously, because whatever happens in Kimball Junction, we need the Bus Rapid Transit to mitigate a lot of those impacts and the congestion that's there.”

County Manager Shayne Scott said it’s not necessarily a done deal that SB84 will disqualify the county from transit funding. County representatives still have time to speak with state legislators before the end of the session about SB84’s consequences.

“And that's one thing we're going to mention,” Scott said. “Don't harm a very valuable service to our community just because of a development gone awry.”

Still, SB84 is not a law yet. County officials have to proceed as if they have land use authority according to their existing contract with Dakota Pacific.

A two hour work session is scheduled for Wednesday's county council meeting at 4 p.m. The council will discuss the developer’s rezoning proposal but not make any decision nor accept public comment at this time.

Two more public hearings are scheduled before the council plans to consider approving Dakota Pacific’s plans on March 15.

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