WASHINGTON CITY — After nearly a decade of work and some false starts along the way, SunTran bus service is coming to Washington City.
The Washington City Council unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with St. George at their meeting Wednesday night to expand SunTran service into the city’s downtown area.
“We’re very excited,” Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said, adding that the city has been working to bring transit service into the city since he became mayor 2010. “This is a crowning achievement, I think, for us and our city and our residents.”
If all goes as planned, SunTran will be rolling through Washington City by summer 2021 at the latest.
Washington City had previously been on the cusp of bringing bus service into the city in early 2015 until funding issues arose.
Renewed hope for SunTran expansion came in 2016 when an alternative for transit funding presented itself in the form of the proposed 0.25% local option sales tax that was put before county voters. Known as Prop 1 at the time, the measure was killed by voters.
Despite the sales tax option being defeated, it was resurrected by the Legislature, which passed a bill allowing counties and municipalities the option to enact the quarter option sales tax themselves.
Following discussion between county and municipal officials, the Washington County Commission chose to adopt the 0.25% sales tax in June. The county plans to use a portion of the sales tax revenue for a proposed St. George to Springdale transit route.
According to the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the sales tax revenue would be distributed as follows:
- 0.10% to the municipalities and unincorporated areas without transit services.
- 0.10% to the municipalities with transit services: St. George and Ivins.
- 0.05% to the county in areas with transit service.
Prior to the county’s adopting the sales tax, the Washington City Council passed a resolution announcing its intent to pursue the transit funding portion of the sales tax if enacted.
The new tax revenue is anticipated to generate $491,000 for Washington City’s transportation funding needs, as well as another $491,000 for its incoming transit service.
The projected revenue has enabled Washington City to go to St. George and SunTran once more about expanding service into the city, City Manager Roger Carter said.
Under the interlocal agreement drafted between the two cities, Washington City will pay for a bus for the new route, as well as all associated items involved in maintaining that route. This also covers the creation of bus stops where signage may be accompanied by benches and shade structures in some cases.
The first year of operation is estimated to cost the city nearly $300,000 due to the new bus purchase, with following years dropping to around $205,000.
Buses for the new route can take up to 18 months to build and deliver, Carter said, adding the city hopes to piggyback on another city’s order and possibly get a bus faster.
Along with the new bus, Carter said the city will also purchase a back-up bus for the route at some point.
While Washington City will cover the cost of the buses, maintenance and other matters related to it, SunTran will maintain management of the bus service as it does with the route that loops in Ivins.
As for the route SunTran will take, Carter said it was created by SunTran planners with input from city officials. The new route will loop through the downtown area where there’s a recognized need for transit service.
“It’ll hit those areas we feel there is a critical need,” Carter said.
The new route will begin at the Deseret Industries stop in St. George, go down Telegraph Street toward the Sullivan Soccer Park, and loop back around toward the Washington City Community Center on the way back to the original stop.
Potential stops along the way include the Walmart-Kohls commercial area on Telegraph Street, the Winter Haven-Kings Row area where Carter said there is the biggest needs for bus service and the Mill Creek-Warm Springs area.
Gratitude toward St. George expanding SunTran into the city was universal among the City Council and staff.
“I want to thank SunTran and St. George for their willingness to expand where we’ve tried and failed in the past,” council member Troy Belliston said.
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