2011 completion date for two TRAX lines announced

Published: Friday, Oct. 1 2010 12:21 a.m. MDT

SOUTH SALT LAKE — The Utah Transit Authority announced on Thursday that the West Valley and Mid-Jordan TRAX lines are scheduled to be operational on Aug. 7, 2011.

The news came as UTA marked the halfway point in light- and heavy-rail expansion, which will add 70 miles of rail to the existing 64-mile rail network. The $2.5 billion FrontLines 2015 program will include four TRAX lines and a 45-mile commuter-rail extension.

"We're going to open them both up at the same time," UTA General Manager Mike Allegra said of the two west-side TRAX expansion lines. "We're going to kick off a very state-of-the-art public involvement process to engage the entire west-side community to restructure the routes of the entire west side."

The rest of the expansion will include an TRAX line to the Salt Lake International Airport and Draper extension on the southern end of the main north-south TRAX line, and a 44-mile extension of the FrontRunner line to Provo.

"There isn't any other transit authority in the United States that is doing something this size and is on schedule and under budget like we are here in Utah," said Greg Hughes, UTA board chairman and state legislator.

"We have created more than 2,700 direct jobs and 2,600 indirect jobs — more than 5,000 jobs to help out in our tough economic times," Hughes said of the construction project. "If our economy cooperates and revenues arrive, we could be as much as two years ahead of schedule" when the project is complete.

UTA expects the current daily ridership, of 50,000, to double by the time the expansion is complete.

Thursday's announcement was made in a new $51 million maintenance facility at 2264 S. 900 West in South Salt Lake that used to be an expansive ZCMI warehouse. The facility is uniquely equipped to maintain new light-rail cars that will have their mechanical systems overhead, allowing the passenger area to be positioned closer to the ground. Mechanics will use a series of overhead catwalks to access rail cars' mechanical systems.

Converting an existing building "saved taxpayers half of what a maintenance facility like this would cost," Allegra said.

The maintenance facility will employ about 200 people and can store and maintain as many as 100 light-rail cars.

If the weather and economy cooperate, the UTA says the Draper and Airport lines could be open by 2013, and the FrontRunner expansion the year after that.

e-mail: sfidel@desnews.com

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