The money for the Midvalley Highway is in the bank — almost.
The State Transportation Commission approved $74 million in funding for the first phase of the Midvalley Highway during their May 19 meeting, according to Tooele County Commission Chairman Wade Bitner.
The Midvalley Highway funding will come from $1 billion in new state bonding for transportation projects authorized by the 2017 session of the state Legislature.
The bill authorizing the bonds left the choice of projects up the transportation commission.
Tooele County’s state legislative delegation and county commissioners said Utah Department of Transportation officials promised them that the Midvalley Highway would be included in the projects funded by the legislation.
The May 19 allocation was fulfillment of that promise, according to Bitner.
“Work will now begin in 2019,” said Bitner. “Rather than the 2035-2040 time frame, as originally planned in the schedule.”
Bitner referred to the $74 million allotment as “the largest state appropriation to Tooele County.”
He credited the successful drive to get the highway money to a joint effort between the county commission, the county recorder/surveyor, UDOT staff, state legislators, the state Transportation Commission, the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce and the county’s hired lobbyist: former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Curtis.
Tooele County will receive $3 million in 2019 to begin engineering, $35 million in 2020 and another $36 million in 2021 to complete the first phase of the highway.
The proposed Midvalley Highway is to traverse the west side of Tooele Valley from Interstate 80 near milepost 94, crossing state Routes 138 and 112 and eventually joining state Route 36 south of Tooele City limits.
Phase one leaves I-80 near milepost 94 and connects with SR-138 near Sheep Lane.
Tooele County joined with UDOT and the Federal Highway Administration in 2007 to start an environmental impact study for the proposed route for the Midvalley Highway. The $4 million study was completed four years later.
In August 2015, the county contracted with the West Jordan-based firm, Project Engineering Consultants, for $266,650 to perform work related to property acquisition, including survey work, for the highway’s first phase.
Tooele County purchased 222 acres at a cost of $1.8 million for the right-of-way for phase one of the Midvalley Highway in December 2016.
The county used corridor preservation funds to make the purchase. Corridor preservation funds are collected from vehicle registration fees. They can only be used for new transportation projects approved by the Tooele County Council of Governments, a body that includes the county commissioners and representatives of incorporated cities in the county.
Proponents of the highway claim the route will provide an alternative route to I-80 from Tooele Valley. The Midvalley Highway will be a freight route, freeing room and creating passenger safety on SR-36, according to Tooele County’s Transportation Plan.
Midvalley Highway proponents also assert that the new highway will provide a more direct route from I-80 to industrial depots and other commercial property on the southwest side of Tooele City.
The improved transportation route will increase opportunities for economic expansion and job creation in the industrial depots, according to highway proponents.
“The Midvalley Highway will shorten the distance from the prime commercially zoned properties to the interstate, which is imperative to Tooele County’s economic development,” Bitner said.