“There is a lot of exciting work happening right now,” said Zacharia Levine, Community and Economic Development Director for Grand County, speaking before the Moab City Council at its meeting on Feb. 25.

Levine was invited to update councilmembers on long-term regional transportation plans involving city and county governments as well as the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, a major landholder in the area.

The plans include three stages of strategic planning: a regional plan, a city-county master plan, and the evaluation and design of a potential public transit system.

“UDOT continues to show great interest in our area,” said Levine, “and great support as well.”

Levine indicated that UDOT was taking the lead on the first stage, funding the Regional Transportation Plan at an estimated cost of around $150,000. Per the terms of a cooperative agreement signed just a few months ago, Moab City and Grand County will contribute $10,000 apiece toward those costs.

The Regional Transportation Plan will focus on Highway 191 and its interaction with local roads and traffic flows. Levine noted that this stage will be important to identify projects that qualify for state infrastructure funding.

A joint city-county transportation master plan will be the next piece of the puzzle, to Levine’s clear enjoyment.

“The next phase of transportation planning is really exciting,” he said. “The county’s transportation master plan…hasn’t been updated since 2008; the city has never had a master plan,” he said, pointing out that this planning effort illustrates clear moves towards greater collaboration and cooperation between the government entities.

“It’s a small valley; there’s no reason why we’d create two of these documents,” said Levine.

This stage will be primarily funded by UDOT, with the city contributing $15,000 and the county $25,000 toward the estimated cost of $150,000 for the joint plan.

The final phase of planning would be research and design of a transit plan for the region, for which federal funds are expected to support the majority of the planning costs according to Levine.

“We are going to be looking at a bonafide public transit system,” he said, estimating that these regional plans could begin while the joint plan was still in process while cautioning that this was not set in stone.

Levine was adamant that these plans were not focused on tourist services or National Park shuttles, but were specifically for year-round public transit serving residents.

Levine mentioned that during the study, different forms of travel, funding for operations costs and acquisition of assets would be discussed.

“It’s really intended to be a true public transit system,” he said. “There is an understanding that in a tourist-based economy…there is a need to expand services during some times of the year,” noting that federal funding does allow for that flexibility.

After a few questions from councilmembers about the potential public transit system, Levine noted that they were still learning about the available federal funds.

“We’re at the elementary level of understanding how it works in the state of Utah,” he said. “We haven’t even applied for these funds yet; we’re a ways away from getting a grip on what this looks like…There’s no predisposition to a specific form of transit.”

Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus noted that having clear long-term strategic plans is helpful for discussing projects.

“It’s helpful as we’re talking about things like the parking situation downtown, an in-town shuttle and also the bypass,” she said, noting that these plans were essential to funding these ambitious projects.

Levine said that the Regional Transportation Plan had a one-year timeline and he expects to be able to show progress by the fall.

Parking structure continues to rile

A controversial plan to build a parking structure in downtown Moab continued to highlight strong voices and differing views of the city’s development.

$10 million of “Recreation Hotspot” state funding was allocated to the Moab area from the Utah Transportation Commission, primarily for the construction of a parking garage to be located mid-block between 100 North and Center Street. An existing surface lot occupies the space currently.

While the parking garage plans have been in process for months, recent council meetings have heard strong opposition from some business owners and residents, who question the need for the structure and whether the city can reapply for funding for a different transit or parking solution.

Wes Shannon, owner of Main Street businesses Love Muffin and the La Sal House, attended the meeting to urge councilmembers to consider using funding to explore other parking ideas. He spoke of his concern that UDOT would ultimately remove on-street parking along Main Street, as has been discussed for years.

“We’re essentially transplanting Main Street parking to someone’s lap on 100 West,” he said, “What about all the rest of the businesses on Main Street?”

“If there’s even a 1% chance that Main Street parking could be taken away, I feel like we need to direct this money to a viable option that serves the community rather than an isolated parking structure,” Shannon said.

Councilmember Mike Duncan had put forth a motion at the Feb. 25 meeting that would cancel the design and construction of the Downtown Parking Structure outright. That motion was tabled. Duncan said that he would recommend a vote on the motion at the next Moab City Council meeting, scheduled for March 10.

Motion to cancel the design and construction of the Downtown Parking Structure.

Councilmember Duncan requested the item be scheduled for a vote at the next City Council meeting after a public hearing.

Proposed Ordinance 2020-03: An ordinance amending the City of Moab Municipal Code Section 17.69.050(E) to allow the City Council to consider smaller unit sizes for workforce housing units that are built on-site at the time of project construction.

Item tabled and referred back to staff for revisions.

Approval of change orders for and briefing on Mill Creek Drive West Extension project construction.

Item passed 4-0, with Rani Derasari absent.

Annexation petition from sponsor Paul W. Jones for Lions Back Holdings, LLC, for 3.12 acres located at approximately 938 and 940 South Main.

Item passed 4-0, with Rani Derasari absent.

The Moab City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers (217 E. Center Street, Moab). Meetings are also live-streamed online on the Moab City YouTube page.