By just a two-vote margin the House on Thursday passed a bill that sets up a transportation fund that will be used to plan and identify major road corridors in the state.
HB53 was not supposed to be controversial. But a number of conservative Republicans refused to support the measure, saying it could harm property values and rights of citizens.The bill's sponsor, Rep. Marda Dillree, R-Farmington, said no property rights would be abused. In fact, no land would be taken by the government because of the measure.
But because the bill calls for the Utah Department of Transportation to use the fund to plan and coordinate where major new roads would go - like the West Davis Highway planned as a new route into the Salt Lake Valley - some House members feared the state telling land owners that some day their land could be taken for a road would in effect stop fair market sale and/or development.
"Property rights are sacred," said David Ure, R-Kamas. Rep. Reese Hunter, R-Holladay, said by laying out likely road corridors, even if the roads won't be built for 20 years and may never be built, the state would be harming property values. "This is really a taking (of property) because you are devaluing the land and may never take it," said Hunter.
But Dillree said her constituents just want to know where major roads, like the West Davis Highway, will go. "They want to get out of limbo - will (the road) go here, or there."
House Minority Whip Kelly Atkinson supports HB53. "We're now buying four houses in Riverton to expand the Bangerter Highway because we didn't plan, didn't say where it would go. How much more taxpayer money will we waste tearing down houses" when the houses wouldn't be built in the first place if land owners knew where major roads would be going? he asked.