Though delayed by pandemic, SunTran still set to roll into Washington City

ST. GEORGE — Washington City residents will have to wait just a little longer for SunTran to roll into their city.

A SunTran bus in St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Originally slated to begin service in March or April, SunTran expansion was pushed back due to the onset of the coronavirus, Washington City Manager Roger Carter told St. George News Friday.

With transit expansion also being funded through a 0.25% sales tax, and sales tax revenue expected to be down due to businesses closing or offering limited service due to the pandemic, is there any risk it could stall SunTran’s coming into Washington City?

Carter said no. Funds have already been dedicated for the new bus route in the city’s pending 2020-21 budget and those weren’t being readjusted as other budgetary items had in expectation of an overall drop in revenue.

City officials are now looking at bringing SunTran in sometime in June once major work on Main Street has concluded, Carter said.

Main Street is a part of the new bus route that will be running through Washington City, yet is also currently undergoing reconstruction as a part of a flood control project that is expected to wrap up in July.

New bus route

According to a map displayed at the 2020 Dixie Regional Transport Expo, the new route will begin at the Deseret Industries bus stop in St. George, go down Telegraph Street, go up 1100 East and loop back around toward the Washington City Community Center and then run up to Buena Vista Boulevard. It will then go to Cactus Lane, turn on Green Springs Drive back down to Telegraph Street and head back to the original stop.

A map of the new SunTran bus route in Washington City shown at the 020 Dixie Transportation Expo held at the Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, Feb. 11, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News | Click top enlarge

Potential stops along the way include the Walmart-Kohls commercial area on Telegraph Street, the Winter Haven-Kings Row area where Carter previously said there is the biggest needs for bus service and the Mill Creek-Warm Springs area.

Paid for by a 0.25% sales tax, is transit expansion at risk?

Washington County adopted the 0.25% sales tax last June for transportation and transit funding. The county plans to use a portion of the sales tax revenue for a proposed St. George to Springdale transit route. Washington City Council passed a resolution claiming a portion of the sales tax for its own transit needs if enacted.

In December, the new tax revenue was anticipated to generate $491,000 for Washington City’s transportation funding needs, as well as another $491,000 for its incoming transit service.

SunTran buses at the stop on 100 South near 1000 East in St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While St. George, which operates SunTran, will manage the new route into Washington City, the city will cover the cost for bus, maintenance and other matters related to it.

However, with the onset of COVID-19, sales tax revenue for Washington City has gone down as businesses close or limit operations.

For its upcoming 2020-21 city budget, Carter said the city is anticipating seeing a $1.5 million drop in sales tax revenue. Where there had also been the expectation of a 6% increase in revenue tied to continuing growth over last year’s budget, city staff now predicts a possible 10-15% drop in revenue generated from growth and a 5-8% decrease for next year’s budget overall.

When asked if a reduction in sales tax will have any negative impact on transit funding and perhaps delay its implementation any further, Carter said that wouldn’t be an issue.

Funding for SunTran expansion has been factored into next year’s budget and hasn’t been adjusted as other items have in order to compensate for a pending reduction in revenue.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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