Inland port brings opportunity and worries to SLC

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) - An inland port in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City is looking to become a reality because of infrastructure expansions in the area. The City Council worries a port authority could strip them of regulating and taxing power over property currently in the city.

Council members and state lawmakers met Tuesday to discuss a way to avoid those issues and work together.

Lawmakers have said they expect a development authority bill during this session. Under current law, a development authority could strip the city of its municipal power in that area.

Councilors note the massive efforts have already been put into plans for a port, but note they couldn't do major infrastructure expansions without state funding. That's why Speaker of the House Greg Hughes suggested a collaboration instead of state taking over.

"We would not expect Salt Lake City to pay for all of the infrastructure or all the opportunity that we could realize," said Speaker Hughes. "But to do it together we need to start talking early."

The Speaker is hoping the good will from agencies working together on Operation Rio Grande has created a trust for this process.

Council Chair Erin Mendenhall said the plan could work if there is someway for the city to retain certain powers.

"We could come up with some kind of operating agreement that could help the cities retain its authorities," said Mendenhall.

The port would take in goods both flown and shipped by rail. The major piece would be using rail lines to bring in freight from the coast and then load it on trucks in Utah.

Mendenhall notes the intersection of Interstate 15 and I-80 gives a unique cross section of interstate which gives easy access in all directions. Shipping freight by train uses less fuel and reduces pollution when compared to trucks over the same route.

The Northwest Quadrant includes about 22,000 acres of land. Lawmakers said the port would only be around 4,000 - 6,000 acres.

The council and lawmakers said Tuesday they plan to keep meeting on the issue to try and get something done soon which would include a framework for the process. That would include the council being able to vote members to any port authority board.

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