According to Cottonwood Heights city engineer Brad Gilson, Bengal Boulevard has needed preventive maintenance since 2005, when the city incorporated. Due to limited resources, the city postponed the work as long as possible. What might have been a one-week, $400,000 project became a $1.75 million reconstruction lasting four months.
“We’d much rather immunize than perform surgery,” said Gilson, referring to the increased time and resources required when maintenance is delayed. “Preventive maintenance is definitely better than reconstruction.”
Bengal Boulevard is a two-mile stretch on 7800 South from about 3500 East to 2000 East. It provides access to an elementary school, middle school and high school. It links to Wasatch Boulevard and Highland Drive, which connects commuters to Fort Union Boulevard and I-215.
The project was to last from June through late summer. However, weather and other unforeseen challenges delayed completion. The contractor is now working around school schedules to maintain safety and avoid congestion. Preventive maintenance would have taken a fraction of the time to complete and would have cost much less.
To complete the project sooner would have required raising property taxes or giving up other city services. Cottonwood Heights currently receives only 42 percent of the transportation funds it needs from the state gas tax. The city had to chip in money from its general fund to complete Bengal Boulevard.
“This isn’t just an issue in Cottonwood Heights,” said Abby Albrecht, director of the Utah Transportation Coalition. “Cities all over the state constantly make tough decisions to balance community needs with limited resources.”
Albrecht said the cost of deferred maintenance is more than financial, noting that drivers and nearby residents have had to navigate around the construction zone for several weeks, and that roads in disrepair are hard on cars. She said that Proposition 1 would save taxpayers money and prevent unnecessary inconvenience by helping cities and counties address maintenance backlogs. Prop 1 is an initiative on this November’s ballot that would provide a local option sales tax for local transportation.
“Voting yes for Prop 1 will help keep our community assets in good repair instead of passing on increased costs and headaches to our children to deal with,” said Albrecht.