Think twice about Proposition 3

Clean mass transit obviously has its benefits to Salt Lake County residents, but expansion is a colossal undertaking that requires a lot of taxpayer dollars. It has to be done right.

Proposition 3 asks voters to give their consent to a one-fourth percent state sales tax increase–which doesn’t sound like much until you consider that the proposed expansions are expected to cost almost $900 million. That’s $105 annually per Utah household, or $8.75 per month.

A rather hefty price tag, to say the least. Yet Utahns appear to have faith that the potential benefit will justify the cost.

According to the Deseret Morning News (“Proposition 3 running strong in county poll,” Nov. 4), a recent poll of 501 Salt Lake County residents by Dan Jones and associates showed that the proposition–which lends support to the creation of four new TRAX lines and the construction of a new western highway-is favored by more than twice as many voters (60 percent) as those who are against it (29 percent).

Business leaders and environmental groups alike have endorsed the project. Proposition 3’s positives (environmental friendliness and public transportation) are so compelling that few have considered its potential drawbacks.

For starters, as politicians often do with popular issues, they’ve packaged a number of less popular measures in with the TRAX expansion, such as the western highway (so much for the environment). Also, passing the proposition guarantees nothing, since the Utah State Legislature did not grant approval for the projects prior to elections, and much of the planning for these expansions has yet to take place.

Of course, a route to Salt Lake City International Airport makes sense. Expanding southward to Provo will make a torturous commute much easier and cheaper for many travelers. Still, these are expensive additions that will have a marginal effect on the lives of most Utahns.

As elections prove year after year, the things people really care about are the things that make their lives more convenient. People always list other issues, such as education and health care, as their top priorities, but their votes often fail to reflect these issues. Instead, people are more likely to give their approval to spending tax dollars on projects with tangible results, like Proposition 3, which will likely pass.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing–just try to make sure you’re not voting “yes” just because you’re supportive of mass transit or willing to vote for anything that sounds environmentally friendly.

An expansion of TRAX might sound like a positive, but make sure you pause to think about how its proponents plan to execute it–and what else they’re tacking on in the fine print.