Formulating options

In addition to stormwater facilities, utilities, infrastructure reconfiguration, streetscapes and parks, parking emerged as a primary need for EPA technical financial planning and assistance because it’s the most difficult to fund or finance.

Planning estimates found that a 650- to-850-stall structure, costing about $8 million, was needed to support the new development by freeing space currently used for surface parking and providing sufficient parking spaces to accommodate commuters living near the transit station. Currently, the structure is intended strictly for park-and-ride users.

After identifying $2 million of Service Transportation Program funding allocated through metropolitan planning organizations, UTA and Sandy City needed to secure an additional estimated $6 million to fund the parking structure.

“We knew that joint development with both the public and private sectors would be critical to secure the funding needed for the majority of the infrastructure, but that it might not be a viable option to finance all of the costs of the structured parking because of the magnitude of resources needed and importance of moving forward with development of the parking early in the development process,” says UTA Chief Planning Officer Matt Sibul. “We worked with Sandy City, UTA, property developer Hamilton Partners, and architect/planners IBI Group, and used our participation in EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program and the HUD Sustainable Communities program to identify what combination of funding mechanisms might be needed to finance the new parking structure, paying particular attention to the complexities involved in what was going to have to be a multiagency effort with not only Sandy City, potential developers and utilities, but also the FTA because part of the property had been acquired with the participation of the FTA.”

As summarized in the table above, the EPA technical assistance identified a potential financing strategy that combines excess property disposal, shared parking, and joint development.

Excess property disposal. The most-recent master plan included the 32 acres immediately adjacent to the station, not 14.4 acres along the tracks (see map on page 32). While FTA’s participation would be required due to its connection to the land and the sale would have to meet FTA policies, UTA could raise money by selling the parcel. To ensure future developments are compatible with UTA and Sandy City TOD goals, the sale could seek a deed restriction requiring a certain density.

Shared parking. Using the existing spaces of facilities near the station could eliminate the cost of building a parking structure. EPA noted that evaluating actual parking needs for transit riders, residents, or entertainment venue users as development occurs could potentially indicate a smaller structure might provide sufficient parking, thereby reducing the overall costs of the project and helping to make TOD more feasible. Sibul reports, however, that ongoing evaluation found that the main users of the designated parking structure—transit riders leaving cars in the morning and exiting in evening and people visiting residences or local offices during the day—had too similar of parking needs in a similar time frame to make a smaller project feasible.

Finally, EPA identified the option of working with the FTA on joint development, which is intended to enhance economic development and/or encourage private investment around transit infrastructure, increasing property values and potentially generating revenue that can be used to fund required infrastructure.

The FTA requires that the transit authority maintain continuing control of all transit-critical facilities. UTA protects its interests and TOD principles by recording specific covenants, conditions, and restrictions. In the case of Sandy Civic Center TRAX station, joint development is intended to facilitate funding for the needed infrastructure by providing revenues from excess property disposal, joint development revenue, and tax increment financing.

Status update

UTA continues defining infrastructure and financing needs as it prepares to begin construction in a few months.

As in any development project, the property developer will have a significant role in shaping the final solution. However, UTA believes that EPA’s technical assistance and early input from both private and public stakeholders will ultimately result in a more comprehensive, smarter solution for the growing community.

According to Sibul, it’s critical to get ahead of actual development with infrastructure planning, as it enables a community to support sustainable development.

“Developing master plans and supporting early financing options is what enables high-density, efficient private development adjacent to transit stations,” he says. “Any community thinking about TOD should consider financing as soon as strategic planning begins.”

Mike Matichich is global technology leader, financial services, for CH2M Hill. E-mail michael.matichich@ch2m.com.