As the FrontRunner South commuter rail line begins operations next week, we congratulate Utah leaders and taxpayers for having the vision to conceive, plan and deliver this large, complex and important mobility project, accomplished under budget and far ahead of schedule.
We're confident that many Utahns will immediately embrace commuter rail, now stretching from Ogden to Provo, but we're even more excited about the long-term benefits of FrontRunner and other highway and public transit projects across the Wasatch Front. Our grandchildren will thank today's leaders for having the vision to complete these projects.
As key engineering consultants on FrontRunner South, we enjoyed both an inside and outside perspective. Our firm works on large transportation projects all over the world, and Utah can be proud of the professional and cost-effective way that Utah Transit Authority manages its projects.
Based on our experience, with FrontRunner now complete and new TRAX lines opening in the near future, Utah will have one of the nation's most robust transit systems, particularly considering the region's population size.
Combined with the Utah Department of Transportation's completion of the I-15 rebuild in Utah County, 2012 is a banner year for mobility improvements in Utah.
Besides the hundreds of good construction jobs and economic activity generated over the past several years, FrontRunner South will save money for those who ride the train, contribute to better air quality and reduce congestion for those who drive the highways.
But the real beneficiaries of FrontRunner South will be those who follow us. In 30 years, the Wasatch Front population is projected to increase by more than 1.3 million people.
A rail transit line is permanent infrastructure that can accommodate dramatic ridership growth at modest cost. Unlike highways that must regularly be widened and rebuilt to boost capacity, rail transit can meet higher demand by adding more cars and increasing train frequency. Our children and grandchildren will enjoy the fruits of today's hard work and investment.
What's more, FrontRunner and TRAX rail lines form a transportation backbone essential to the future of Wasatch Front mobility.
As the population grows and demand warrants, public transit services, including traditional bus, bus rapid transit, streetcars, and even bike paths and walking trails, can reach into every neighborhood and connect back to the FrontRunner/TRAX backbone.
This transit system, combined with Utah's excellent highway and road corridors, helps fulfill the Wasatch Front Regional Council's 2040 Vision, which encourages development of regional centers where individuals and families can live, work, play and shop in mixed-use developments connected to other centers via public transit.
The long-term result will be cleaner air, less urban sprawl, more open space, fewer congested highways, reduced infrastructure costs and improved quality of life.
We congratulate UTA and hundreds of visionary city and county leaders, including those serving on the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Mountainland Association of Governments. A big project like FrontRunner begins at the local level. Cities and counties determine their own transportation needs, then local leaders aggregate those needs into a regional plan.
This project is the culmination of many years of collaborative studies, funding initiatives, environmental work, and route planning, with many public hearings.
The completion of FrontRunner South shows that government, working with the private sector, can get things done, and fulfill big visions. We're honored to have been a part of it.
Ron Clegg is vice president and Utah area manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff. He lives in Lindon; Matt Carter is the Frontrunner South project director for Parsons Brinckerhoff and lives in Highland.