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Sales-tax increase would fund Utah County road work

County leaders meeting today to mull 1/4-cent boost

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PROVO — Utah County Commissioner Steve White had an 8 a.m. meeting at the state Capitol Monday. He left his Orem home at 6:30, made the drive north on I-15 and reached his destination in plenty of time.

In fact, he had to wait about 30 minutes for the meeting to begin. During the wait, he caught up on some reading.

So why did he leave so early?

"Because if I had left at 7 o'clock," he said, "I never would have made it on time."

For Utah County residents, that's the reality of traveling on I-15 these days. White knows he's not the only one who has to alter his schedule to avoid possible traffic delays.

When he was running for the County Commission, White promised voters that he would to do something about the increasing gridlock on I-15 in Utah County.

White hopes the County Commission moves closer to fulfilling that promise today as it considers adding a quarter-cent sales tax to fund county road construction projects. The commission must decide whether the issue should be put on the November ballot. That decision could come during today's 9 a.m. commission meeting.

If voters approve a tax hike in November, officials estimate it would generate $12 million annually over the next 10 years. It would give the county bonding authority to do a large project, such as adding a fourth lane on I-15 from the Alpine exit to University Parkway. "That's the most critical need at this time," White said. Darrell Cook, executive director of the Mountainland Association of Governments, agrees that adding a fourth lane on I-15 is the county's top transportation priority.

Cook sees a quarter-cent sales tax hike as the county's best option, but he said he isn't sure what the outcome of today's meeting will be.

"We're looking at this, and we're going to respond however the commission votes," Cook said.

A tax increase would be only a first step toward easing traffic congestion in the county, Cook said.

"The quarter-cent tax in and of itself will not solve Utah County's transportation problems," he said. "Both the state and the federal government will have to help fund these projects."

E-mail: jcall@desnews.com