Utah's new prison could cost millions more than projections thanks to steel tariffs

The already nearly $700 million planned state prison is likely to cost millions more because of the steel tariffs put in place by the Trump administration. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — The already nearly $700 million planned state prison is likely to cost millions more because of the steel tariffs put in place by the Trump administration.

A rough estimate right now: “Could be about a $15 million hit to this project,” Jim Russell, Director of Facilities Construction and Management for the prison said.

Fortunately, Russell said they could get the steel procured for their water lines leading up to the prison, but for the buildings, it's a different story.

“The tariff is definitely having an impact,” he said.

Rebar, cells, window frames, roofing, because of its strength and low cost, steel is a major component used to build prisons.

“A facility such as this, it's almost all steel concrete, so it's going to be a major concern here,” Russell said. Because of the tariff the cost is not so low anymore.

"For steel costs going up there's virtually nothing we can do about that,” Russell said.

The new state prison in Salt Lake County already faced some criticism earlier this year when it's projected cost went from $550 million to nearly $700 million.

The prison is planned for Sen. Luz Escamilla’s district. She has opposed the location of the prison from the beginning. “We knew that having to clean up was going to take money and time, now with tariffs is again money and time and we at the end it's going to cost more to the taxpayers.”

Escamilla thinks it's becoming expensive and irresponsible at this point.

"I hope we can take care of the state prison, build it fast so we don’t have to pay with all this things that are happening that are so out of our hands,” she said.

Derek Miller is the President and CEO Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance; he said the tariffs affects everyone. “One day you wake up and suddenly your costs are 30 percent more than they were before.”

He hopes the Trump administration will refocus its attention on making trade deals instead of increasing trade tariffs.

"That's the bad thing about a war, even a trade war, you never know which direction it will go and unfortunately it could get could worse, I hope that it doesn't,” Miller said.

Russell said they are doing everything they can to off-set rising costs and inflation. Some of those have been successful and they have come under budget for some of their bids.

But when it comes time for them to bid for steel for the building, “There's nothing you can do but you know hope that it changes and turns around the other way before you have to bid.”

If they are over budget, Russell said they will go to the legislature in January and make their request for how much more money they need.

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