This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • A long parade of residents packing the Provo City Council meeting Tuesday night pleaded for the board to block construction of a transit project that is about to disrupt some of the city's busiest streets.
Most of an overflow crowd asked the council not to approve a 50-year lease of some roadways in Provo that the Utah Transit Authority seeks for a new "bus rapid transit" (BRT) project through Provo and Orem.
But after about three and a half hours of discussion, the council delayed the vote for a week saying the final agreement was revised so many times Tuesday that members want more time to review it.
With BRT, extra-long buses will have special lanes just for them for about half of their 10.5-mile Provo-Orem route. Passengers buy tickets from machines before boarding, and buses have extra doors to speed entry. Buses may receive priority at traffic signals, and they will arrive about every six minutes at peak times.
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and BRT is scheduled to begin operation in spring of 2018. It will operate on such major roads as University Parkway and University Avenue to connect FrontRunner stations in Provo and Orem via Brigham Young University, downtown Provo and the Provo Towne Centre mall.
George Stewart, a former mayor and current member of the council, complained the BRT and related road work projected to cost $190 million overall were never approved by voters and has significant opposition.
"Many who I have talked with voted against Proposition 1 because of their opposition to BRT, and this was a way to vote their opposition," Stewart wrote in a statement given to the media. That proposition, which failed in Utah County, would have raised sales tax for transit and highways.
"Many in the communities affected feel the negative impact to our community character outweighs the stated benefits of BRT," including blocking left turns into businesses and hurting travel time for other vehicles, Stewart wrote.
Many residents agreed.
Provo resident Phillip Hinckley said UTA is projecting that bus ridership along the route would soon increase twelvefold, which he does not believe. "Is that project based on fraud? Provo has no need for this project."
Resident Jake Briem said he rides UTA daily, and most buses in Provo he rides are only a quarter full. So he said BRT is "premature, very burdensome and a little ridiculous."
Resident Rachel Benson worried about leasing portions of some streets to UTA for 50 years
"We don't want to give that up to UTA. They have a poor track record with money, to say the least," Benson said.
"I think the BRT should be put to a vote" by citizens, said resident Randy Farland.
But Wayne Parker, Provo's chief administrative officer, told the council that killing the lease would not necessarily kill the BRT project but it would eliminate many upgrades that Provo has negotiated and could slow BRT.
He said the project would proceed on roads owned by the Utah Department of Transportation, and BRT buses would use some Provo city streets without any special lanes to speed them.
Council member David Sewell agreed that voting against the lease likely would not stop the BRT project, and that it would hurt Provo so he supports the lease. But he said in hindsight, he wishes people had been allowed to vote on the project.
Council member Gary Winterton said proceeding now also allows taking advantage of $75 million in preliminarily approved federal money. Council member Dave Knecht said changing directions now after years of planning would not be wise.
Council member Kay Van Buren criticized BRT for being "a lot of money for a system that won't get ridership."