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Box Elder says a tax hike for transit needed

To avoid future gridlock, Box Elder County needs its voters to OK the quarter-cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot to fund transportation improvement projects, officials there say.

"We're the next growth (area)," Monica Holdaway, executive director of the Brigham City Chamber of Commerce, told the Deseret Morning News editorial board Monday.

Reflecting the concerns of more than 300 businesses in southern Box Elder County, she said it's critical that the area put a priority on transportation needs now, before gridlock arrives.

If passed, the increased sales tax would annually generate some $800,000 for transportation needs in Box Elder County.

Holdaway said current estimates have Brigham City's I-15 corridor reaching maximum capacity by the year 2020 — less than 13 years away. U.S. 89 is estimated to max out by 2025.

She said the biggest concern is that commuter rail isn't currently planned for Brigham City until 2030. The chamber wants to speed that up. "We're hoping for a 2015 time frame," she said.

The chamber believes commuter rail is the best alternative to pursue with extra tax money, especially since the area has a lot of commuters traveling as far away as the Salt Lake area.

Holdaway said South Willard could potentially have more households than Brigham City one day.

The FrontRunner commuter rail will begin operating next spring, going from Pleasant View to Salt Lake City. Once Box Elder County is connected, places like the Salt Lake City International Airport, EnergySolutions Arena, the University of Utah Medical Center and other popular locations will be easily accessible without traveling by car from Brigham City.

The quarter-cent sales tax increase will cost the average family about $8 extra per month — not much more than the average amount of gasoline used by residents now stuck sitting in traffic, according to the Northern Utah Transportation Alliance.