Utah Transit Authority board members who oppose a light-rail project are predicting a resolution allowing continued work on the project to pass in a key vote Wednesday.
Dan Berman and Sam Taylor, UTA board members who oppose continued work on the light-rail project, say that they expect a resolution supporting the work will pass but say at least three board members from Salt Lake County will vote against the resolution.Steven Randall, board chairman, said he will vote for the resolution but wouldn't speculate on whether it will pass.
The proposed resolution "reaffirms" the UTA board's support of light rail or a fixed guideway transit system to be built along the I-15 corridor. The vote is scheduled after eight months of study and discussion about transportation alternatives.
"We've talked about it (the issue) for months. The critical thing is that we set a direction for the staff. This (resolution) doesn't guarantee light rail will be built, " Randall said of Wednesday's vote.
Proponents of the light-rail plan and redirected bus service say the mass transit project, proposed from Sandy to downtown Salt Lake City, would help reduce gridlock on I-15 and help solve the Wasatch Front's air quality woes. A vote in favor of the resolution will allow UTA staff to pursue funds for final design work on the project.
Randall said the proposed resolution will set limits on the actions UTA can take. The resolution says UTA can't build a light-rail system if it requires a sales tax increase, it diminishes existing bus service or less than 50 percent of project costs come from federal funds.
The UTA board held a handful of lengthy "education sessions" to review pros and cons of light-rail and other transportation projects and issues. Part of the reason for the sessions was to help educate three new board members, including Taylor and Berman, appointed by the Salt Lake County Commission late last year. In a vote in October, the board agreed to hold the sessions and then vote whether to continue design work on the proj-ect.
Berman, a local attorney, sees the vote as setting a course that could mean UTA will be put in a position of eventually asking for increased taxes to pay for a system despite the fact that voters rejected the idea in a referendum. He remains skeptical of revenue projections for the light-rail proj-ect.
"This vote will set us on a course that when we get to the end of we realize we don't have the money," Berman said. He also said that unless people are forced from their cars, they won't ride light-rail trains.
Another new board member from Salt Lake County, Stan Bonham, said he is agonizing about the decision and believes the vote may be close. He said he wasn't sure how he is going to vote but said proponents of the light-rail system have made a more credible case for the project than opponents.
While noncommittal, Bonham said, "If it wasn't for the clean air problem, I would probably vote against light rail."
The Utah Transit Authority board is scheduled to vote Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. on whether to allow continued work on a proposed light-rail transit system in Salt Lake County. The meetings will be held at UTA administrative headquarters, 3600 S. 700 West.