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COUNCIL BACKS $2.1 BILLION TRANSPORTATION PLAN

SHARE COUNCIL BACKS $2.1 BILLION TRANSPORTATION PLAN

A 20-year plan to improve transportation in the Salt Lake-to-Ogden corridor adopted recently by the Wasatch Front Regional Council calls for spending $2.1 billion on dozens of street and highway projects.

Most of the projects have already received environmental approval or are grandfathered in and so not affected by a ban on new federally funded highway projects taking effect because the state doesn't meet federal air quality standards.The major exception is the improvement of U.S. 89 through Davis County. The environmental assessment is not expected until sometime this spring, making the estimated $12 million project ineligible, at least temporarily, for federal funding.

The rest of the projects through Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties are still eligible for federal funding and can probably go forward as planned, according to Wasatch Front Regional Council di-rec-tor Wil Jefferies.

And the state is planning to submit new information to the Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors air quality, that could bring Utah into compliance early next spring, Jefferies said.

"We are not in a dire position yet," Jefferies said. "But we do need to get the state air quality plan certified. If we don't get it certified within the first six months of next year, then we will be impacted."

Council staff member Matt Rifkin noted there is also a growing national unhappiness among big cities with the stringent EPA air quality standards and there is a possibility the standards or deadlines to implement them could be relaxed.

The 20-year plan adopted Thursday has to go to the state and then federal levels for approval.