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Let the funds begin, 2 Utahns tell Lott

Taking advantage of the Olympic spirit rekindled by the Nagano Games, Utah's senators are urging quick action to fund transportation projects key to the 2002 Olympics in Utah.

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, R-Utah, released Monday a letter they wrote to Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., warning that some key Utah road projects may not be completed by 2002 unless Congress acts quickly.They urged him to bring up "as soon as possible" the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act, which if allowed to expire in May would cancel permission for federal spending on many highway and transit projects nationwide.

"Utah is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that our nation shines when the spotlight moves from Nagano to Salt Lake City," they wrote.

"However, without federal partnership, the strain on Utah may result in key transportation projects left unfinished.

"If ISTEA is not reauthorized soon, construction cycles will be interrupted and transportation officials will not be able to effectively plan and implement key Olympic transportation projects."

The senators wrote that the reconstruction of I-15 through the Salt Lake Valley is the "largest design-build project in our nation's history."

They added, "While the state of Utah is currently bearing the full financial burden of this $1.6 billion project, it cannot continue to do so indefinitely."