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Rocky says Hansen undermined funding

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Utah Republican Congressman Jim Hansen Friday denied accusations that the worked behind the scenes to sabotage funding for Salt Lake City transportation projects.

Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson is convinced that his stand against Legacy Highway has led Hansen to punish him in a tit-for-tat move. Anderson made the accusation during a contentious meeting Thursday.

Anderson said he only recently learned that $9 million set aside by the Wasatch Front Regional Council for reconstruction of South Temple Street could be pulled out of Salt Lake City's purse. He blamed the possible withdrawal on Republican Rep. Jim Hansen who, the mayor said, doesn't like the fact Anderson joined a lawsuit to stop the Legacy Highway from being built.

Hansen said the mayor's accusations amounted to a publicity stunt.

"I have no control over that money," Hansen said. "I have talked to no one about what they ought to do with it. If he had the courtesy to call me we might be able to clear these issues up, but I'm absolutely stunned."

An angry Anderson distributed a memo to local leaders at Thursday's Regional Council meeting, detailing a conversation that Rocky Fluhart, Salt Lake City's chief administrative officer, had with Regional Council executive director Will Jefferies.

"(Jefferies) said underlying the proposal (to withdraw funds) was Rocky's opposition to the Legacy Highway. He informed me that Congressman Jim Hansen had told him that because Rocky had tried to deprive Davis County constituents of the benefit of Legacy Highway, he would do everything he could to stop federal funding for roads in Salt Lake City," the memo read.

Jefferies said any funding decision concerning the South Temple project would be based on the project's merits, and that many road projects throughout the Wasatch Front would probably be eliminated. The planned South Temple project is at the top of the list because it "does not increase capacity or decrease congestion," he said.

But after being asked again whether Anderson's Legacy Highway stand has anything to do with possible funding loss, Jefferies admitted he told Fluhart that public officials were concerned about Anderson's opposition to the highway.

Anderson said he was never made aware of the potential roadblocks.

Regional Council Chairman Dannie McConkie said the council has not yet approved any changes in road funding. The South Temple project was originally approved seven years ago, but it was pushed back so the work wouldn't go on at the same time as the University of Utah light-rail construction. But it's high time now, said city Transportation Director Tim Harpst.

Contributing: Diane Urbani, Brady Snyder

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com