Governor signs SB 234, Inland Port Bill, plans special sessions to make changes

Mar 16, 2018, 9:50 PM | Updated: Mar 17, 2018, 12:57 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The last big plot of undeveloped land in Salt Lake City — more than 20,000 acres west of the airport around the new prison site — and lawmakers have a plan for it.

Governor Herbert signed SB 234 – establishing an inland Port Authority with jurisdiction covering about 20,000 acres of the city’s northwest quadrant.

It’s been a battle between the state, county and the cities affected, but just because the bill is signed doesn’t mean the job is done.

The bill the governor signed Friday came with a letter, saying in part, he looks forward to making minor adjustments in a special session.

From above, the plot of land in question is a marshy, undeveloped blank canvas, but take a closer look and many see opportunity.

“(This is) the crossroads of the West, the state of Utah and having an inland port for imports and exports is really a game changer,” Rep. Greg Hughes said.

An inland port would essentially provide a sort of ‘fast pass’ for container ships to bypass congested port cities like Oakland and Seattle. Instead, ships could unload cargo to a waiting train that comes directly to Utah and then go through customs. Representatives from Salt Lake City, are feeling hesitant.

“Twenty-two thousand acres is a third of the city land, so that’s pretty big,” said Lara Fritts, director of the Department of Economic Development.

Gov. Herbert has been in talks with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and vows to address key disagreements including land use, taxing authority, size of the jurisdiction and the make-up of a port authority board.

“We’re trying to find that balance for the country, and its representatives would be at the table as the city would be as well,” Hughes said.

Over the next 25 years, the city estimates the port authority would take control of more than $1.4 billion in tax revenue.

“We have already started to market the area that it vital to the global economy,” Fritts said.

In the end, those involved say it will come down to compromise and a little ‘give’ from all stakeholders.

“Salt Lake City wants to be a great partner in whatever an inland port looks like,” Fritts said. “We talk about being team Utah and we want to continue to be team Utah.”

“We all have to get along collectively if we’re going to see this inland port become a success,” Hughes echoed .

A special legislative session to further discuss plans for the inland port are expected sometime this summer.

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Governor signs SB 234, Inland Port Bill, plans special sessions to make changes