Utah’s $450-M Rail Plan Leaves Station

Tue November 26, 2002 - National Edition

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The Utah Transit Authority has launched a five-year plan for commuter rail cars that would travel as fast as 80 mph between Ogden and Salt Lake City.

The trains could be running by the end of 2007, said Steve Meyer, UTA’s commuter-rail construction and engineering manager.

The project is badly needed given the court-ordered setbacks for Legacy Highway, said newly elected Utah Rep. Stuart Adams, a former Layton city councilman.

A federal appeals court in September ordered additional environmental studies for the highway before a decision can be made whether to resume construction that was halted on Nov. 16, 2001.

But Congress must get on board for commuter rail. The UTA is counting on federal lawmakers providing 50 percent or more of the funding.

UTA’s share would come from sales-tax revenues, the sale of bonds and a $20-million state contribution.

The transit agency paid $120 million for a 20-ft.-wide segment of Union Pacific Railroad’s right of way between Salt Lake City and Ogden.

The agency also bought a 20-ft.-wide segment of UP’s main line south of Salt Lake City to Payson.

The agency hopes to extend commuter rail to Utah County, possibly within 10 years.

But first, Utah County residents must approve the same half-cent sales-tax being levied in Weber, Davis and Salt Lake counties for commuter rail. A vote on a Utah County sales-tax increase could be held in 2004.

The northern Wasatch Front commuter-rail segment calls for up to eight stations from the northern Weber County border to Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake City station, now under construction at 600 West and about 300 South, will be a hub for both types of rail, transit buses, Greyhound Bus Lines, taxis and intercontinental Amtrak service.

To provide that TRAX link at the hub, north-south light rail will be extended nearly six blocks to the south from its current station at the Delta Center.