Despite pushback, Moab is moving forward with plans for a new parking structure

Officials: UDOT funding for project would be at risk if repurposed

This draft diagram of a parking garage shows the possible layout of a structure the City of Moab is planning to build near the center of downtown. Diagram courtesy of the City of Moab

As the City of Moab looks to turn $10 million in state funding into a parking garage near the center of downtown, one voice has been particularly vocal in opposition to the idea: That of local resident Michael Liss.

Liss has proposed to repurpose the parking garage funding instead for dispersed parking around Moab, saying the parking structure is “not solving a real problem” and that dispersed parking would provide spots where they are most needed in Moab.

The problem, according to Kitchen and city officials, including City Engineer Chuck Williams and Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus, is that the money provided by UDOT for the parking structure was allocated explicitly for the purpose of funding construction of a parking garage; repurposing the funds could threaten their very availability.

The decision to build the parking structure was not made unilaterally; the Transportation Commission reached its decision in May 2018 to allocate the $10 million for Moab and $90 million elsewhere in the state after extensive public input, and a two-year process followed the decision to determine just exactly how Moab would spend the money to improve parking.

At the time the funds were allocated, $7.3 million was earmarked explicitly by the commission for a parking structure in Moab based on the public input it had received. The project would later fully consume the $10 million total budget given to Moab as cost estimates increased and consensus among local stakeholders participating in the hotspot funding discussions indicated that a parking structure was the primary project of interest.

Now, according to Williams, further cost estimates have forced the city and UDOT, as the funder of the project, to mutually agree to shrink the overall scope of the project. As the city has worked with design and planning consultants Kimley-Horn, the 320 parking spots previously thought possible by Moab and UDOT has been reduced to 250, according to Williams.

This change of scope has provided an opportunity for Liss to reignite his campaign against the parking structure, and at a city council meeting Feb. 28, he showed up to make that pitch.

So far, however, indications from Williams, city council members, Kitchen and others are that the idea is unviable. Enough financial capital — including $250,000 in consulting fees out of the $10 million budget — and political energy — chief among them, a decision by the Transportation Commission to fund Moab’s project over the appeals of other Utah communities — have already gone into the parking structure for the city and UDOT to put the train onto a new set of tracks.

As for how the project moves forward, the city is continuing to work with Kimley-Horn and public feedback the two entities collected in December about how the parking structure should look and function, and a second open house about the project is scheduled for Feb. 20, when the city plans to share “aesthetic concepts for the parking structure for public input.”

The parking garage will be a key item of discussion when the Grand and Moab City councils hold a joint meeting at noon Feb. 18.