South Davis light rail long on ideas, short of cash

Transit » Planners say it will take voters' commitment to become a reality.
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Despite increasing traffic congestion and strong public support, a transit system that would connect southern Davis County with Salt Lake City's central business district has yet to make it off the designer's desk.

No money to build or operate the system been found. An environmental assessment is unfinished. And no construction timetable has been laid out, said Utah Transit Authority spokesman Brandon Bott.

"We are still in the process of determining how this project would be funded," Bott said. But despite this obstacle, it remains on the long-range plan of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the agency in charge of transportation planning for Davis, Salt Lake, Weber, Tooele and Morgan counties.

Council spokesman Sam Klemm agrees that the delay "is pretty much a question of money. It would take an additional revenue stream from somewhere to build it."

Klemm said "upwards of $300 million to $400 million" would be needed, either through sales and property taxes, impact fees or general obligation bonds.

"The issue is how soon [a bond proposal or tax increase] would be put before the voters and whether voters would approve it. That's a political question that I'm not qualified to answer," he said.

The Utah Transit Authority finished a preliminary study of Davis transit-system alternatives last year. The study recommends that in addition to establishing light rail, UTA would offer bus service to the FrontRunner commuter-rail station in Farmington. Buses would run every three minutes.

The preferred light-rail route choice is a 12.3-mile line that would travel from Salt Lake Central along 600 West in Salt Lake City and Parrish Lane to Centerville's Main Street.

Trains would operate every 10 minutes during weekday peak hours. On Saturdays and during off-peak hours during the week, frequencies would be every 15 minutes. Sundays and holidays, they would run every half-hour, stopping at nine stations between Parrish Lane and Salt Lake Central: Pages Lane, 400 North, 500 South, 1500 South and 2600 South, all in Bountiful; Center Street and Eagle Ridge in North Salt Lake; and 600 North and 200 South in Salt Lake City.

Park-and-ride lots would be established at the Pages Lane, 1500 South and 2600 South stations.

The rail line likely have a dual character. Between Salt Lake Central and 2600 South in Bountiful, cars would run along an exclusive right of way. Farther along, cars would share the street with automobiles, as TRAX trains now do between 900 South and 1300 South in Salt Lake City.

"Building the project will depend on funding and the will of both the public and elected officials," Bott said.