The Obama administration on Tuesday put the planned TRAX extension to Draper on a fast track for $113.6 million in federal funding although congressional Republicans are threatening to derail money for such projects.
The Draper light-rail line was one of only three new-start transit projects in the nation recommended for funding next year in documents sent to Congress as part of President Barack Obama's budget. The others are a light-rail expansion in Portland, Ore., and expansion of the Bay Area's BART subway system to San Jose, Calif.
If approved, the proposed $113.6 million for the Draper line, combined with $10 million previously given to it for planning, would cover 60 percent of the total project cost, estimated at $206 million.
"We appreciate the confidence shown by the Federal Transit Administration in recommending the Draper project," said Utah Transit Authority spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said the funding is part of an effort "to continue investing to rebuild and modernize our transportation networks, including public transit."
The grant would complete federal funding for UTA's $2.4 billion FrontLines 2015 rail-expansion program. That includes four new TRAX lines and a 45-mile extension of the FrontRunner commuter rail from Salt Lake City to Provo.
The new West Valley City and airport TRAX lines are totally funded from local sources, as is the FrontRunner extension. The new Draper and Mid-Jordan TRAX lines are partially funded from federal sources, as was the original FrontRunner line.
The transit budget proposal unveiled Tuesday also includes $78.9 million in fiscal 2012 for the Mid-Jordan TRAX and $52 million for already-completed work on FrontRunner sections between Weber County and Salt Lake City.
While the budget is good news for UTA, obstacles still loom because congressional Republicans are vowing to slash billions from Obama's $128 billion transportation budget, which was unveiled this week.
The Draper TRAX extension has received FTA approval for its environmental impact study. Some early construction has occurred on it, including removal of old track, clearing the right of way and utility relocation. But the next major step for approval would be a formal full-funding agreement from the FTA a prospect that looks bright since FTA included money for the line in the budget.
Rogoff said about the Draper line and others nationally, "We would not put money in the budget if we did not expect them to get to the finish line" with their full-funding agreements.
The Draper extension would be 3.8 miles long from Sandy. It would include construction of three stations and park-and-ride lots for 1,400 spaces. UTA also would buy five new light rail vehicles. The project is expected to serve 6,800 average weekday boardings in 2030, according to FTA documents.