Funding our Transportation Future

No one can predict with certainty how much funding will be available over the next few decades to address Utah’s priority transportation needs. However, Utah’s transportation agencies have worked together to develop a robust financial model based on sound technical analysis for current and future projected revenue that can reasonably be assumed to pay for these transportation needs.

Utah’s transportation agencies have together projected that between 2019 and 2050, the total transportation need in Utah is estimated at $108.5 billion in today’s dollars. This includes funding needed to operate our current transportation system, and to preserve and maintain the infrastructure in good condition. It also includes the funding needed to meet growing travel demands by increasing roadway capacity by building new roads, and widening and making operational enhancements to existing roads; increasing transit capacity  by building new transit lines, upgrading existing lines and providing more frequent rail and bus service; and increasing options to bike or walk by constructing new bikeways and improving existing trails and walkways.

The Unified Plan Financial Model assumes that current revenue sources for transportation will remain in place, or be replaced by equivalent sources. For example, the Unified Plan assumes that the revenues coming from transportation user fees such as the current motor fuel tax — or a replacement such as a road usage charge — will continue and grow gradually over time. The Unified Plan makes projections about the growth of those revenue sources, based on historical trends and economic analysis. The Unified Plan also makes projections about revenues that would be generated from new or increased sources, such as additional local option transportation sales taxes.These projections are based on reasonable and prudent assumptions reflecting historical trends. Importantly the Unified Plan does not assume that revenues will be available to meet all transportation needs.

For planning purposes, Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan assumes that all the existing revenue sources will generate $74.3B (in today’s dollars) between 2019 and 2050.  Existing revenues include the following sources, or options that would generate equivalent new revenues:

  • State motor fuel and diesel taxes
  • Vehicle registration fees
  • Local option transportation sales taxes
  • Federal funding

For planning purposes, Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan assumes that all new revenue sources will generate $16.5B (in today’s dollars) between 2019 and 2050. Assumed new revenues sources include the following sources, or options that would generate equivalent new revenues: 

  • Statewide gas tax increase
  • Statewide vehicle registration fee increase
  • Local community vehicle registration fee increase
  • Local community sales tax increase
  • Private-sector funding building local roads

The specific funding mechanisms will depend on decisions by state and local elected officials. The Unified Plan — in an attempt to be prudently conservative in its assumptions — does not assume significant private contributions to transportation (other than developer-paid impact fees), nor does it assume the use of value capture techniques, such as Transportation Reinvestment Zones or tax increment financing. However, these are potential additional sources to generate revenue for infrastructure investment, among others. 

Utah’s transportation officials understand that not all of the $108.5B of transportation needs can be met. The agencies have identified a prioritized set (financially constrained) of the most critical needs that we can fund with our existing and assumed new funding at $90.8B billion. Therefore, in summary the current revenue sources will cover $74.3B in needs, the Plan assumes that an additional $16.5B will be generated, leaving $17.7 billion as the remaining amount needed in order to fund all of Utah’s transportation needs by funding sources yet to be identified.