Key Utah legislators encouraged Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to figure out a way to extend TRAX rail service over the Point of the Mountain into Utah County to serve the high-growth area of northern Utah County and the large high-tech and retail businesses there like Adobe and Cabelas.
“We really need rail service down there,” said Sen. Al Jackson, co-chair of the Transportation Interim Committee. The committee on Wednesdayheard status reports from UTA and the Utah Department of Transportation, and quizzed agency leaders about future plans.
David Kallas, senior advisor in UTA’s Office of the General Manager, said UTA many years ago purchased right-of-way into Utah County, but building the new segment from Draper to Lehi will likely require additional sales tax revenue. He said he didn’t know the anticipated cost of the project, but will provide that information to the committee.
He was asked by committee co-chair Johnny Anderson if UTA now has enough money to build the transit projects contemplated in Utah’s long-term Unified Transportation Plan. Kallas said the plan, developed by all of Utah’s transportation agencies and local government planning agencies, anticipates sales tax funding at a full penny to build out the system and increase frequency and coverage of buses and trains. Currently, UTA funding is around a half penny in most of the counties it serves, and close to three-quarters of a penny in Salt Lake County.
If counties pass the local option sales tax as authorized by the 2015 Legislature, UTA will receive an additional one-tenth of a penny, amounting to $35 million to $40 million per year, and will use that money to increase bus frequency in high ridership corridors, increase the hours of services, add more weekend service, and expand TRAX service on Sunday.
The Unified Plan is being updated, Kallas said. But to build all the needed projects identified by planning agencies, including TRAX service into Utah County, will require a full penny of sales tax revenue, he said.
Meanwhile, UTA is using its current funding to expand frequency and coverage of bus service, boosting service on additional routes to 15-minute intervals, while also increasing capacity and service of FrontRunner trains. Those trains are full during peak service, Kallas said. The agency is also working to meet growing demand for “active transportation” accessibility to transit, and working on transit-oriented developments so more housing and employment options can be located near transit stations.