Public land, public investment, public benefits


A site plan for the Draper state prison site. (Image: Point of the Mountain Development Commission)

The site of a former prison in Utah presents a major redevelopment opportunity in the southern Salt Lake City region. The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is determining whether a southern extension of its TRAX light rail system to the site would be feasible as part of a land use and transportation plan for redeveloping the area into a major job center for 150,000 workers.

While no lines are currently being proposed and the study is being done at the behest of the Point of the Mountain Commission, the Salt Lake Tribune has called for impact fees in an editorial to ensure new growth pays for itself. UTA has a significant debt load from previous transit construction projects and has promised recently to focus on bus frequency and service on existing routes over expensive rail extensions. The transportation infrastructure to extend light rail through the site would cost more than $1 billion.

The UTA already spends $119 million a year to retire its existing debt—the largest single line item in the UTA budget—so new revenue would be needed for any extension. Sources could include a new sales tax (not currently authorized by the state legislature) and tax increment financing from the new development. But massive impact fees on all the expected permits and even the sale of the land could be another option, as the editorial notes. The hope is that the state doesn’t get stuck with all the funding responsibilities while giving away all the value created to private entities.

It’s laudable that transportation and land use are being considered together for a massive redevelopment project in the region. This is one of the many benefits of the Envision Utah process which has been focusing on these issues and connecting them for over 20 years.

To learn more about connecting transit and employment or the economic impacts of TOD check out some of the guides in the TOD resources library including TOD 202: Transit & Employment and Fiscal Impacts of Transit-Oriented Development Projects.

What’s new on the pod?

This month, we talk with Minneapolis Council President Lisa Bender about the impact that the city’s new comprehensive plan will have on TOD. From parking minimums to equity to zoning reform, catch the latest episode of Building Better Communities with Transit on Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.