Another impact of the Port

We wrote a few weeks ago about the Utah Inland Port’s plan to purchase LDS Church property for a rail yard. The Utah Department of Transportation had secured federal funding for the site years ago, however, after partnering with a Utah rail company in an effort to reduce air pollution around Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood.

Now, instead of moving rail lines away from our neighborhoods and improving our air quality, the land will be used by the Port, further degrading air quality and quality of life for Salt Lake residents. Aside from the air quality impacts, the move is also costing millions of dollars more. “We cannot understand why a public agency is driving up the cost of a critical parcel needed to execute the grant” the rail company’s CEO wrote in a letter to Mayor Mendenhall regarding the Port’s inflated bid. In his letter, he also expressed frustration with the Port’s lack of transparency. Something we have long been complaining about. He goes on to describe how the Port doesn’t need to own the land to ensure “competitive rail access” as they claim, making the whole deal a giant waste of taxpayer money

The rail company, Salt Lake Garfield and Western Rail (SLGW), made an original offer of $5.4 million for the property, later upping it to $6 million. Although both offers were well above the appraised value of the land, the church decided to accept bids, at which point the Inland Port bid $10 million for the land. Which again raises the issue of fiscal responsibility. 

The Tribune was able to get a quote from a public relations representative for the Port who said that the port authority is working “to come to a positive solution that works for private business and the state.” But what about for the residents? Seems like the best outcome would have been using that property to alleviate rail traffic close to residents, as was planned with the federal grant. 

Read more about the conflict over the land here.