PROVO — The Utah Transit Authority board of trustees voted Friday to approve the advanced funding necessary to support the development of a Transportation Improvement Project in Utah County.
The decision was made during a special board meeting at UTA headquarters in Salt Lake City.
UTA and the Utah Department of Transportation are proposing to build a bus rapid transit system through Provo and Orem with construction starting this summer and completion expected in about two years. In addition to UTA and UDOT, the project is a partnership between the Mountainland Association of Governments, Provo, Orem and Utah County.
The estimated total cost of the project is $190 million, which includes $75 million from a Federal Transit Administration grant, $65 million from a local sales tax bond, $40 million from UDOT, $7 million from a UDOT donated right of way, along with $3 million from local sales taxes.
With some preliminary work underway, UTA administrators said the agency needs to use $23.8 million of its own funds upfront as it awaits federal grant monies already committed for the project.
“The items that we’re asking the board to advance money for are items that have been identified as eligible for pre-grant award spending,” explained UTA interim President Jerry Benson. The agency will be reimbursed upon receipt of the grant and other funding in the coming weeks, he said.
“In our recent past on large capital projects, UTA issued bonds,” he explained. “So it’s not unusual for UTA to be in this situation where we are having to advance funds out of our capital budget subject to being reimbursed.”
Officials said the Provo-Orem bus rapid transit project is aimed at addressing transit and roadway infrastructure needs. The preferred route, as defined in the environmental assessment process completed in 2011, would connect the Orem Intermodal Center, Utah Valley University, the University Mall area, BYU, high-density student housing areas, downtown Provo, the Provo Intermodal Center, Provo Towne Centre mall and the East Bay Business Park.
The buses would travel about half of the route in dedicated lanes with traffic signal prioritization.
In April, Provo Mayor John Curtis compared bus rapid transit to TRAX light rail because the buses would run in a dedicated lane, with passengers paying before boarding and accessing the buses through doors on the sides of extended vehicles.
Buses on the route are expected to run in five- to seven-minute intervals during peak hours and 10- to 15-minute intervals in nonpeak periods. The proposed route is estimated to allow buses to travel the entire 10.5-mile route five to 10 minutes faster than if traveled by car, Curtis said.
After some spirited debate, the advanced funding resolution was passed and the agency is now able to move forward with the project as scheduled. Some opponents of the project who spoke out during the public comment period were not pleased with the board’s decision, but said they appreciated having their voice heard at the meeting.
“It’s important that the people have an opportunity to weigh in on issues such as this,” said Provo resident and former Councilman David Acheson. “I’d have been happier if the people of the county would have had an opportunity to express their opinion through a referendum.”
He added that if the ridership of public transit in Utah County grows as projected by UTA, then the project will be justified. Those results have yet to be seen, he added.
Orem Mayor Richard Brunst was among the supporters who believe the project will help both cities in the long run.
“This will be a great project for Utah County and it is something needed for the future,” he said. “This will be a benefit for our community.”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: JasenLee1
BEARS EARS, San Juan County — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stood in a circle surrounded by leaders of five Native American tribes, medicine men and women, their children and families and spoke of the importance of the land.
She knelt down to touch a handful of dirt and said, like them, she is in the "forever business" of preserving heritage, traditions and landscapes for generations yet to come.
"Everybody recognizes this area is special," said she in the middle of the Bears Ears meadows Friday. "There is nobody that I talk to that doesn't want to see these areas protected for us, but also for their children and grandchildren."
Jewell, on the third day of a grueling tour through southeastern Utah, spoke candidly with Native American elders and leaders pushing for a 1.9 million acre monument designation for the Bears Ears region.
Between posing for pictures and accepting handwritten notes from children asking for monument protections, she said her overwhelming impression after two days on the ground was a blend of amazement, wonder and shock at what San Juan County's landscape has to offer.
"What I have seen on this trip and especially here is this incredible treasure trove of cultural resources" that she said stretched far beyond her expectations. "It's beyond imagination. I am also shocked at the lack of protection for many of these assets."
Leaders of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition hosted Jewell in a grassy meadow atop the Bears Ears buttes at an elevation eclipsing 9,000 feet. Native Americans engaged in tribal song, dance and language and served a Hopi dinner.
She ventured into a teepee and, later, accompanied by top Interior Department officials such as the head of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis, and the Bureau of Land Management's national director, Neal Kornze, they listened patiently as Native Americans pressed their cause.
The conversations marked the second day of face to face, spontaneous interaction that Jewell's been having with Native Americans over the controversial Bears Ears region. At issue is whether there should be a monument designation by President Barack Obama or if land protections should come through Congress with legislation sponsored by Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz.
"That is what all of this is about, listening to each of you," she said. "It has been several days of intense listening and several days of getting out in these incredible landscapes and feeling the power that exists within them."
She told the Native American monument supporters that what she had heard Thursday in a Monticello meeting with tribal members opposed to the designation was not all that dissimilar from what she was hearing from them.
"They have so much in common in what I hear from you that I hope there will be a coming together," she said. "There is nothing like listening and touching and hearing the different points of view and the similar points of view."
The inter-tribal coalition representing the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute and Ute tribes officially formed a year ago after leaders said they became frustrated with the public lands initiative process being shepherded by Bishop.
Dubbed the "Grand Bargain," Bishop's bill seeks to invoke land management policies for 18 million acres in eastern Utah, including the contentious Bears Ears region in San Juan County.
Those tribal leaders in the coalition, who walked away from talks with Bishop last December, still disapprove of the latest version of Bears Ears protections contained within his bill released Thursday.
Kenneth Maryboy said it doesn't go far enough to protect the land from oil and gas development, potash mining or other mineral leasing.
While officials with the Monticello District of the Manti La Sal National Forest — where Bears Ears Buttes are located — said there has been no oil or gas leases in the area for the last 15 to 20 years, there has been a permit issued to an uranium mining company for exploratory drills. While the permit has been granted, there's been no activity, likely due to unfavorable market conditions.
Bishop's bill would place 1.4 million acres into two national conservation areas and a wilderness area — which come with land restrictions — but the coalition wants monument protections.
Several San Juan County Native Americans say the monument push is being driven by tribes from out of state who don't live in the area and therefore won't suffer the consequences of any monument restrictions such as possible prohibitions on wood gathering or the collection of native herbs and plants.
Jewell stressed both Thursday and Friday those fears are unfounded.
"The traditional activities that have gone on in these lands since time immemorial will continue," she said.
Carlton Bowekaty, a Zuni tribal councilman from New Mexico and a three-tour veteran of the Iraqi war, said the land at Bears Ears provides a way for him to heal and connect with ancestors.
He added that the co-management structure proposed by the coalition offers a unique, and unprecedented opportunity for Native Americans to have a real voice at the management table of a monument.
While the Zuni has worked in cooperation with the Forest Service and National Park Service in a number of agreements on the land, this would be different, he said.
"We want to be there from the beginning," he said. "We don't want to be an afterthought."
Email: email@example.com Twitter: amyjoi16
SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert, one of the state's 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland that begins Monday, isn't sure what to expect from his party's presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.
"The Republican Party needs to find ways to come together," Herbert told the Deseret News, especially at a time when dissention and terror is spilling into the streets with a string of deadly attacks here and abroad.
What Republicans need to do, he said, is "find ways as a country we can help each other and support each other and understand that compromise is not a dirty word. We ought to find ways to solve people's problems."
But the governor said he's not sure Trump is up to the task.
"I think he has the talent to do it. I guess time will tell whether he will do it, or can do it," Herbert said. "He wrote the book, 'The Art of the Deal,' he knows how to bring people together and negotiate."
There is a long pause when the governor is asked whether the four-day convention can boost Trump's support in Utah, a reliably Republican state that's been reluctant to back the billionaire businessman and reality TV star.
"Well," Herbert finally says, "I don't think he's going to go any lower."
Like many Republicans in Utah, the governor hasn't decided whether he'll vote for Trump in November. He's withholding an endorsement until he can meet with Trump personally, something expected to happen in Cleveland.
Longtime Utah pollster Dan Jones said Utahns need to see a different side of Trump than the often bombastic candidate who makes sweeping statements against Muslims and other minorities, as well as on other issues.
"He's got to give it a try. He's got to start. He's got to quit being divisive," Jones said, and start telling voters in Utah and around the country "what he's going to do in a calm, united manner."
Earlier this year, Jones' polling found that Utah would reject Trump and vote for a Democratic candidate for president for the first time since 1964. Since then, Trump has overtaken his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But that lead slipped in late June, when just over a third of Utahns, 36 percent, said they'd vote for Trump and 27 percent, Clinton, in a poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates for UtahPolicy.com.
Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and moderator of "Meet the Press," said the network has moved Utah to "Lean Republican," meaning the state is considered a competitive battleground in the presidential race.
Still, Todd said it's more likely Utah Republicans unhappy with Trump will turn to a third party candidate like Libertarian Gary Johnson than Clinton.
"I would still be stunned, shocked, pick your adjective, if Hillary Clinton actually carried the state," Todd said. He said Johnson could have one of his strongest showings in Utah, just as Ross Perot did in 1992.
That year, the independent presidential candidate came in second in Utah, behind Republican President George H.W. Bush and ahead of Democrat Bill Clinton, who won the White House.
"It wouldn't shock me if that's how you saw some votes go" in Utah this election, Todd said. "But I've got to think there's enough Republican base support to get Trump over the top."
He said Trump's choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate should help him with Utah voters, thanks to his "Boy Scout image" and strong credentials with social and religious conservatives.
"I actually think if Utah is as competitive in the fall as it looks today, Trump won't go to the state, and he shouldn't," Todd said. But sending Pence in his place "could actually help fix some of the problems Trump has been experiencing."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, helped lead the last-ditch fight to stop Trump's nomination in Cleveland last week, trying to find a way to allow delegates to vote their conscience rather than be bound by his wins in primaries and caucuses around the country.
However, their effort stalled in the rules committee headed up by former Utah Congresswoman Enid Mickelsen. Lee, a close friend of the winner of Utah's GOP presidential preference caucus, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also has not endorsed Trump.
Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka said that battle could be brought to the convention floor. No matter what happens in Cleveland, though, she said she's not voting for Trump at the convention — or when she goes to the polls in November.
"Let's put it this way. I'm not going to vote for him — anytime," Ruzicka said, pledging to write in some other candidate in the general election. "Trump is not somebody who meets the criteria of a moral person, an honest person."
Former Utah GOP Chairman Stan Lockhart, who pushed a "Stop Trump" delegate slate at the state party convention in April, said he wants to give his party's pick "one more chance" in Cleveland.
Lockhart, who's going to the convention with his daughter, Hannah, a Utah alternate delegate, said he'd like Trump "to represent what our party stands for. So far, that's not him. He's appealing to the disaffected, to those who have lost all hope."
What Lockhart said he has to see from Trump is "more civil discussions of the issues and how to solve the issues. I want less attacking of people and communities. We need to be focused more on solutions than on getting headlines."
The head of the Utah GOP's Elephant Club for top donors to the party, Lew Cramer, said he's also hoping Trump can tone down his rhetoric at the convention and ensure Republicans are able to defeat Clinton.
"I'm frustrated as a Republican because of the lost opportunity," Cramer said. In any other election year, the former secretary of state investigated by the FBI and Congress would have been an easy target for the GOP.
Now, Cramer said, the party is pinning its hopes on a candidate who may not be able to beat her. The convention, though, is an opportunity for the party to right itself if Trump can deliver, he said.
"I'm praying that he can. It's not that hard to do," Cramer said. "I know there are some things you can say and ways you can act so that you're a statesman, not a politician."
Don Peay, the head of Utahns for Trump, said that's what the world will see this week.
"I think in the primaries, there's a lot of personality stuff. But when people actually vote for the presidents, they're going to look at who's best on national security, jobs and the economy, uniting the country and stopping the violence," Peay said.
At the convention, Trump is "going to be a strong leader. He's going to articulate what he's going to do for the country," Peay said. Speakers announced range from Trump's adult children to survivors of the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is set to address the convention, the party's past two nominees, Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain, aren't going. Nor are the two living GOP presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
In Utah, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is joining Herbert as a delegate. But Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, gave up being a delegate and will be campaigning in Utah this week. Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart have also chosen to skip the convention.
Staying away from Cleveland is a good move for Utah Republicans on the ballot, said Jeremy Pope, co-director of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
They must "avoid being tarred with the sideshow that is Donald Trump," Pope said, predicting an ambivalent response at best to the candidate's performance at the convention.
"I think people will be tuning in expecting something like Donald Trump's TV show, that he'll be entertaining like he was on 'The Apprentice,'" Pope said.
He believes Utah could be headed for one of the lowest-ever voter turnouts.
Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said he believes voters are looking for a candidate to put their minds at ease amid the violence happening around the world and at home.
"There is uncertainty and fear not just in political circles right now, but in the country generally," Perry said. "What a presidential candidate cannot do right now is add fire to the flames."
There are security concerns surrounding the convention, and law enforcement officers from around the country are coming to provide assistance, including 27 Utah Highway Patrol troopers.
The troopers are part of a public protection unit first used in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and brought back two years ago. One of their recent deployments may have been a dress rehearsal for Cleveland.
The unit was sent to a Trump campaign rally in downtown Salt Lake City held just before the March 22 presidential preference caucus where thousands of protestors and supporters clashed.
UHP Major Jess Anderson said the Utah troopers are expected to patrol areas outside of the security perimeter around the Quicken Loans Arena in their regular uniform of brown shirts, tan pants and beehive patches but that could change.
"If things get a little bit rowdy or to the point we have to protect ourselves and others, we have protective equipment," Anderson said. "I anticipate we could very well see some sort of protestors who have a different view than Donald Trump."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: DNewsPolitics
BLUFFDALE — A 7-year-old Bluffdale girl died Saturday after being hit by a car in what police called a "horrific accident."
The incident happened about 12:40 p.m. Saturday near 4000 West and 14000 South. According to Saratoga Springs Police Sgt. Jeremy Wright, a 62-year-old man from Midvale was driving a black SUV pulling a trailer when he struck the girl.
Police identified the 7-year-old as Tacie Sorenson.
Investigators do not suspect that impairment, distraction or speeding played a role in the incident, said Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andrew Burton.
The driver said "a child came out, just started out into the road and (he) couldn't stop," Burton said, adding that the driver stayed on scene and was "quite upset."
"We'll be the first ones to jump on anything if there's anything suspect," the chief said, but he indicated the incident appears to be a "horrific accident."
SALT LAKE CITY — As Julie McAdams thought about ways she might learn more about refugees, it occurred to her that the thousands of people from around the world resettled in Utah in the past 40 years were modern-day pioneers.
"It’s a later time period but this state has done this before," McAdams said.
"This place was built by refugees and they’re (refugees) just like modern-day pioneers where the pioneers were the earliest refugees."
To help educate mainstream Utahns about the newest arrivals among them and to help refugee communities better integrate to their new home in Utah, McAdams pitched a group of refugees with the idea of creating and entering a float in the upcoming Days of '47 Parade.
"Nobody I talked to knew what a parade or a float was," she said.
McAdams, who is associate general counsel for the University of Utah, a community mediator and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams's wife, said she did her best to draw pictures and explain what happens in a parade. "Still, they’re looking at me like ‘What are you talking about?’"
So she looked up links on YouTube to show videos, explaining, "Hey this is a parade. This is what’s happening. Salt Lake City, Utah does this every year. It’s kind of a big deal. Do you want to be part of this?
"Once they see what it is, they’re like, ‘Yeah, OK!’"
That pitch was followed by a series of other meetings during which McAdams, and Ze Min Xiao, refugee liaison for Salt Lake County, further explained Utah state history, the significance of the state's Pioneer Day observance and more background on parades and floats.
"I think one of the big things is a float is a foreign concept to many of the communities. Once you explain it to them, everyone is super excited about this opportunity," Xiao said.
Committee member Brigitte Rwakabuba said she had seen the parade on television but "this is the first time the refugee can participate. Usually we see that on TV. I was like, ‘Oh, we have not been forgotten. We are part of Utah now.”
She and her husband, who are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were resettled in Utah in August 2000. It was summer and living in Utah was agreeable until winter.
They were working at an assisted living center and fellow employees and residents noticed they were not dressed for the weather.
"Everybody knew we were refugees so they decided to bring clothes, they decided to bring coats. They decided to bring us shoes and they would say, ‘This is for the snow, you know. It’s cold. It’s good for you to wear a coat.'
"We knew people were nice. That’s why we stayed," said Rwakabuba, now a naturalized citizen and mother of four who works as a certified nursing assistant.
Naima Mohamed, who was resettled in Utah 10 years ago from Somalia, said serving on the float committee "has been a really great experience for me and I’m really happy to be part of it, the planning, the decision making, coming up with all it."
She looks forward to the parade, which she says will help to further integrate refugees into the Utah mainstream.
“It’s a sense of belonging,” said Mohamed, who is coordinator of Salt Lake County's refugee child care program and a mother of two.
Over the past few months, the float committee agreed on a theme and a design.
Twelve refugee communities will be part of the inaugural parade entry, marching along the float. Groups representing two refugee communities — Burundi drummers and Bhutanese dancers — will perform on the float switching off along the parade route.
The parade, to be held on July 25, starts at 9 a.m. at South Temple and State Street, concluding at Liberty Park.
The float's design is intended to convey the message that Utah is home for some 50,000 refugees resettled in the Beehive State since the end of the Vietnam War and portrays the rich diversity they bring to the state.
"It really turns into this idea that we talk about all the time, integration, educating the refugee communities about the significance of Utah history. On the other end, doing the parade to also educate the mainstream community about all this culture and assets that refugees bring with them and that there is this common bond that ties everything together in a community," Xiao said.
While plans are still being finalized, the following refugee communities will be represented: Iraqi, Somali Bantu, Somali Banjuni, Somali, South Sudanese, Bhutanese, Burundi, Burmese, Congolese, Ethiopian, Sierra Leone and Iranian.
The float was professionally built by Innovative Design Concepts and funded by Zions Bank, which is also providing Utah refugees complimentary tickets to the opening night of the Days of '47 Rodeo.
McAdams said she thinks "it will be fun, too, to see if they’re into it or shocked or hate it. I’m really excited to see their reaction to a rodeo.
"One of the refugees said, ‘Is it like the Running of the Bulls? Do we have to get out of the way?’
"I told them 'Oh no, no. You won’t be in danger. There’s no risk here. You will be watching. They’re trying to relate it to something they’ve seen before and really there’s nothing."
McAdams said the joy of working on this project has been introducing refugees to so many "firsts" in their community such as the parade and rodeo.
"I'm hoping it goes really well. Regardless, it’s going to go well. They’re coming. They’re going to be dressed in their native clothes. They’re beautiful, fun people. For a parade, it’s going to look great. I hope they love it and are happy they did it and feel they were a part of something," McAdams said.