Infrastructure means roads and bridges to most people, but it also includes our mass transit systems, our city parks and recreation facilities, our waste disposal, our drinking water, our storm drains and more. With Utah's massive growth in the past 20 years, there is no wonder some of these services are lacking. While at the same time, we have excelled in other areas (like mass transit, for example). Infrastructure is a basic function of government, and we do not fund it enough, and what we do fund, we overpay dramatically.
Funding for infrastructure must be increased to shore up our needs today, as well as continuing to plan for the growth of tomorrow. While our mass transit systems rival that of many larger cities, many of our canals, levees and waterways are 100 years old and in disrepair, and our drinking water supply is at risk from seismic threats and the long periods of drought we have experienced over the last two decades.
Our freeways, highways and interstates have seen a lot of improvement in the past 10 years, along with the Maxx, Traxx and Frontrunner systems, and further improvements to Bangerter and Mountain View corridor will help alleviate some traffic congestion, as well as the upgrades to the 201 and I-15 freeways. There is a tendency to make minor improvements to infrastructure because of budget constraints, and then to almost immediately need to make more minor improvements soon after completion.
Traffic is one of the most hidden evils of a city. Aside from a few people who make this their living, people in traffic are not usually productive in jobs, not spending quality time with family, not having leisure time. The average person in Utah spends 87 hours commuting to work each year, not counting excess traffic. And hundreds of people die every year on Utah roads. We trade this risk and loss for good jobs and good homes that may not be near each other, or for better opportunities. Government has a role in mitigating this risk, but I believe it should regulate as little as possible in order to achieve this goal.
With recovery of COVID-19 and the economic disaster that has been wrought, revenue for government will be drastically reduced for several years, but this is a basic priority that cannot be ignored. Capital investments in infrastructure will make huge payoffs in our economy and quality of life down the road.
Therefore, my priorities would be:
Fully fund maintenance and repair of existing Utah infrastructure. Where possible, try to lower costs by funding smaller projects more rapidly. I would seek proposals to shore up Utah's future infrastructure by securing our drinking water, and upgrading levees, waterways and canals. I would not seek new taxes in this funding, as I believe we can prioritize our spending more efficiently towards government's basic roles.
I would write new laws, modify or remove existing laws that cause our infrastructure and construction projects to lag in approval time, completion time, quality and hugely bloat costs compared to private sector projects.