Parking, housing top proposed $45M city infrastructure plan

Portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations were recently installed at the Center Street Gym after a sewer failure occurred.
Photo by Carter Pape

A recent briefing to Moab’s mayor and city council on a proposed five-year capital investment plan provided some insight on the city’s spending priorities through 2023, with the Center Street Gym coming in near the top of the list following a recent failure of the sewer system at the facility.

The briefing was provided by City Engineer Chuck Williams during a council meeting on Tuesday, April 9. Williams gave an overview of the process for developing the plan, which he said could be the first of its kind officially approved by the city council.

“I think there have been informal ones [five-year capital investment plans] in the past, but I have not been able to find council-adopted ones,” Williams said.

New to the list: Center Street Gym

The top two projects–parking improvements on Main Street and affordable housing development on Walnut Lane–have been in the works for months and did not come as a surprise to council members.

Center Street Gym was the third costliest item on the list, which was a relatively recent development.

A major sewer failure at the gym in recent weeks has disabled use of the bathrooms in the facility, requiring temporary installation of portable bathrooms just outside the building. Follow-up conversations among city staff about fixing the gym’s problem led officials to propose a larger investment in improving or replacing the building, which was built in the 1960s.

“It really needs to be evaluated to see whether it’s better to renovate that facility or consider a new facility,” Williams said.

Williams and City Manager David Everitt each outlined other problems with the building, including “major structural issues with the roof,” according to Everitt. Fixing the sewer problem alone is estimated to cost around $150 thousand*, according to Williams.

“We’re certainly not saying, ‘Replace the gym because of that sewer failure,'” Williams told the council. “We’re saying, ‘Maybe we should put it on the five-year plan.'”

Replacing or renovating the gym is currently listed in the final year of the five-year plan.

Parking near Main Street

The largest individual item in the city’s five-year plan is a four-story parking structure near the intersection of 100 West and 100 North that recent estimates price around $7.7 million. Funding for the project will come from the Utah Department of Transportation, part of the $10 million allocated for the Moab area in May by the UDOT Transportation Commission.

In May, the Transportation Commission earmarked $2.7 million of the $10 million for the development of “dispersed parking” around Main Street. The development would “convert empty lot space behind storefront businesses along Main Street into additional parking lots,” according to UDOT documentation.

Moab’s five-year plan currently does not include this dispersed parking item and instead lists a $1 million “Main Street improvements” project funded by UDOT’s hotspot funding planned for 2021 or 2022. The Main Street plan, as originally proposed, would replace on-street parking along Main Street with bike lanes, add to it a median with pockets for turn lanes, and bring parking meters to its side streets.

Payment for any of these three projects would be sourced from UDOT’s “recreation hotspot” funding, a $100 million pool of money allocated by the Utah Legislature in 2017 “for transportation improvements in areas with recreation and tourism activity that currently experience significant congestion,” according to UDOT.

The four locations that will receive this funding are the areas around Moab and Arches National Park, Zion National Park, Little Cottonwood Canyon and Bear Lake. Little Cottonwood Canyon is slated to receive a bulk of these funds; as much as $66 million will be spent to improve transportation systems in that area.

Biggest funding sources: bonds, state grants

Williams said during the briefing that he worked with Everitt, who for years has worked closely with the city’s budgeting process, to figure out which projects on the list might be eligible for funding via bond issuances.

Just under half of the total spending in the plan that Williams presented was designated as potentially being funded by bonds. The city council will have the final say on these borrowing decisions as spending approvals come up.

“We would consider bonding projects because they’re larger projects—because we don’t generate revenue in any given year to pay for that project,” Williams said.

Approximately 25% of the total spending is expected to be funded by external sources, namely countywide entities and statewide entities. A majority of this external funding is expected to come from the Utah Department of Transportation, which has allocated $10 million for transportation improvements in and around Moab.

Mayor Emily Niehaus alluded during Williams’ briefing that the amount of funding for capital investment projects that could be externalized to county or state sources via grants or cost sharing could be even greater than the five-year plan estimates. Williams concurred.

“One thing I have learned in my time in Utah is, there’s a lot of money available in the state to go after, much more than in other places,” Williams told the council.

* Note: This story originally misstated the estimated cost of repairing the sewer system. The estimated cost is $150 thousand, not $150 million.