The latest battle at City Hall is all about money — $200,000 in Redevelopment Agency funds to be exact.

On one side are Mayor Rocky Anderson's administration and a few City Council members who say the money is an absolute must to help pay for a new $600,000 Utah Transit Authority downtown transportation study.

On the other side are a few council members who call the study a wasteful boondoggle that will be obsolete shortly after it's finished.

In the middle are a pair of undecided council members — Jill Remington Love and Dave Buhler — who will likely determine whether the study is funded.

The City Council, acting as the city's RDA Board, is expected to decide whether to spend the money next month.

Study critics point out that city and UTA bureaucrats don't know where they will get the remaining $200,000 needed to fund the study, even if the city pitches in. The plan is for UTA to pay a third, the city to pay a third and the remaining third to be gained from other, unknown sources.

Opponents note that with all the changes coming to downtown — Salt Palace Convention Center expansion, downtown mall redevelopment, new college campus expansion, new downtown office buildings and other proposed projects — the study, if started now, will be useless by the time it is finished.

"I wonder if our study isn't obsolete before it's even implemented," Councilman Van Turner said, adding that "a lot of this study will benefit UTA more than the city."

Turner and Councilman Dale Lambert note the city has done copious downtown studies that should give transportation planners the insight they need to make decisions about downtown.

"It's way too much money," Lambert said. "This just strikes me as the wrong year to spend this kind of money on something like this."

Lambert said the money would be better spent on actual brick-and-mortar projects for downtown rather than another study.

Other council members are supporting the expenditure. They say the money is well spent so the city can be at the table when UTA plans transportation strategies downtown. In the coming years UTA plans to add new light-rail spurs to West Valley City, West Jordan, Draper and the Salt Lake City International Airport, among other potential new spurs. All those lines will be heading for downtown, and transportation officials need to know how many trains they can send into the heart of the city without fouling vehicle traffic.

"We need to have a seat at the table," Councilwoman and frequent UTA critic Nancy Saxton said. Without city involvement she fears UTA will run away with the study and may arrive at conclusions that are detrimental to the city's transportation needs.

Planning Commission member Prescott Muir told the council the study is essential because the commission has no transportation plan on which to base its downtown decisions.

Still, some council members insist there are higher priorities.

"I just don't think we can afford $200,000 for a study this year," Lambert said.


E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com