Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Fund Board met for their monthly meeting on Thursday, this time in Vernal, and drew a big crowd of locals there to support one of the agenda items concerning funding to complete the EIS process for the proposed Uinta Basin Rail project. While there were many comments and opinions shared during the meeting, board member Naghi Zeenati offered a unique perspective as he also serves on the Utah Department of Transportation Commission. He acknowledged those that were concerned with the cost of this project but stated that UDOT cannot widen enough roads or build enough bridges to remedy the transportation problems in the Uintah Basin. “It is a lot of money but at the same time I don’t see any other resources, I don’t see any other area that we can come up with,” said Zeenati. “If we don’t do anything now there will be no roads. The tankers you are complaining about right now, there will be more doubled up in size…they are still going to move oil, move hazardous materials on the roads…We have to come up with some kind of solution,” he continued, “because tomorrow if I go back to UDOT they are going to ask me the same question, Did you get any idea of what we are going to do about [Highway] 40 or 6?” After a long and thorough discussion, the $21.4 million dollars in funding was approved by a 9-1 vote and was followed by applause from the crowd. Even Gregg Galecki, the board member who voted against, stated that he supported the project. He said he believes it’s the right project but that there needs to be more exploring of other funding options. 20 protesters attended the meeting and stood in the crowd in opposition. Stickers on their chest read: “We are being Railroaded.” One protester was arrested for disruptive behavior including yelling and interrupting the board’s business taking place. Of protesters who were asked, all said they were from outside the Uintah Basin.
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