Pete Buttigieg, Spencer Cox on funding new highway projects in Utah

Standing on the steps of the Utah Capitol building Friday, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Gov. Spencer Cox detailed new infrastructure projects they say will “make life better for millions of Utah residents, create a generation of good-paying union jobs and economic growth, and position the United States to win the 21st century,” according to a news release.

“In every part of the country, climate change is impacting roads, bridges, and rail lines that Americans rely on—endangering homes, lives and livelihoods in the process,” Buttigieg said in a statement Friday. “Us funds from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, we’re launching this improvement effort to help communities protect transportation infrastructure from extreme weather and routes that first responders and firefighters need during disasters.”

Billions for bridges: Based on an analysis from the US Department of Transportation, Utah will receive $2.6 billion over the next five years for highway and bridge construction under the infrastructure package.

The state can also compete for a $15.8 billion bridge investment program and a $15 billion grant for “megaprojects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.”

Utah will also receive about $57 million over the next five years for funding to reduce transportation-related emissions, and $65 million to “increase the resilience of its transportation system.”

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Capitol Friday morning, July 29, 2022 in Salt Lake City.

Kristin Murphy, Desiret News

“We see the effects of climate change and extreme weather play out across the country every week, with extreme temperatures and rainfall and resulting flooding and wildfires that damage and in some cases destroy roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure,” Stephanie Pollack, acting federal highway administrator, said in a statement Friday.

In total, that’s a roughly 33% increase from what’s currently available via federal highway funding.

Utah has 62 bridges and over 2,000 miles of highway in poor condition, according to the Department of Transportation.

Additionally, transit times have increased by over 7%, while Utahns pay on average $709 annually for auto repairs due to crumbling roads.

Improving safety: Utah can expect $19 million in formula funding — a portion of the $13 billion available for states under Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act — for highway safety traffic programs that the department says will “help states to improve driver behavior and reduce deaths and injuries from motor vehicle -related crashes.”

The announcement comes as Utah is nearing a record number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths this year.

Local and tribal governments can also compete for up to $6 billion in funding for the “Safe Streets for All” program, designed towards helping reduce injuries and deaths in vehicle-related crashes.

Utah will also see $24.7 million over five years for commercial motor vehicle safety efforts

Funds for public transit: Utahns who frequent public transportation spend an extra 100% of their time commuting, while non-white households are nearly twice as likely to use public transit, according to the Department of Transportation.

Under the infrastructure law, the Beehive State will get an estimated $665 million over the next five years to improve public transportation options, about 38% more than what’s currently available through federal programs.

Expanding electric vehicle infrastructure: Electric vehicles constitute just 2.3% of new car sales in the US — in China, by comparison, 6.2% of new car purchases are electric.

“The president believes that must change,” reads a press release from the Department of Transportation.

Under the infrastructure package, $7.5 billion will be directed towards building a national network of electric vehicle chargers. Roughly $36 million will be funneled to Utah.

In addition, the state can apply for grants to improve electric vehicle charging, an estimated $2.5 billion available to be distributed among states.