Legislation Could Give Controversial Transit Board A New Identity

Mar 9, 2018

Utah lawmakers approve funding for what the Utah Transit Authority as it transitions into becoming the Transit District of Utah
Credit UTA

The Utah Transit Authority will receive an estimated $50 million makeover, as it transitions to the newly named Transit District of Utah under Senate Bill 136.

The bill, which passed both chambers on Wednesday, would not only re-brand the public transportation agency but it will also downsize the UTA board from 16 members to three, who will be appointed by the governor. Another aspect of the overhaul includes a revamp of the agency's funding structure. UTA has come under fire in recent years for exorbitant board member bonuses and because of allegations of improper land development deals.

During the House committee hearing for the bill Monday, UTA President and CEO Jerry Benson spoke to the necessity for public transit in Utah and how state funding will allow for the completion of more projects.

“UTA kind of got to the end of a phase,” Benson said. “When we completed our rail construction program in 2013, we found ourselves in the situation where we don’t have the resources to continue to invest and expand the rail system and we don’t have the ability to expand service which is what the public has told us they really want.”          

At a press conference for the legislation Thursday, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser remarked on the need for more public transit as the population of Utah continues to grow.

“We have more congestion on our roads than we’ve ever had,” Neiderhauser said. “And, this is after we have spent billions and billions and billions of dollars on roads. We’ve given our best effort. It’s obvious to me that we’re not going to keep up just building roads. Transit has to be a big part of what we do in the future.”

If signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, the new transit board will go into effect on Nov. 1, 2018.