My view: FrontRunner is path to the future

By Mark Seethaler

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Passengers unload from a FrontRunner train arriving in Salt Lake City from Provo, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Permit me some personal reflections; I wrote this while riding FrontRunner from South Jordan to Provo for the recent grand opening celebration on Thursday, Dec. 6.

It was a beautiful train, a beautiful ride and beautiful misty-turned sunny day. I was born in Provo, graduated from Provo High School, left for two years to the Philippines, then left for good after graduating from BYU. Provo holds the memories of my youth, and the experiences that shaped me through early marriage.

Going to Salt Lake was a big deal when I was a kid. I remember crossing Point of the Mountain in my father's Oldsmobile before there was a divided highway. In poor weather conditions, it was downright treacherous. A rare but appreciated outing included shopping at ZCMI and eating at the Hotel Utah.

Today we not only have I-15 with its multiple enhancements and enlargements over the decades, but today, we have FrontRunner — the commuter rail that will not only move shoppers and friends between cities, but will run as an economic engine for education and work and bring economic expansion all along our Wasatch Front. It's not just a smooth, fast ride — it's a transport to the future.

Specific to South Jordan, we are most fortunate to have a platform stop — one of only two between Draper and Salt Lake City. It's more than convenient; it's a hub whose spokes will foster transit-oriented development, and more, throughout our community.

At the recent Provo celebration, Mayor John Curtis extended his greetings to those assembled, quoting Provo's tag line: Welcome Home! Others spoke of vision, of the achievement the trans-continental railroad represented in its day and of the great public-private partnership FrontRunner now embodies.

According to Gov. Gary Herbert, the reality of FrontRunner today is the result of vision and sustained effort in the days, months and years now past. He said that this southern line was completed two years ahead of schedule and at a 10 percent savings from budget, stating:"That's the way we do things in Utah."

An example of "vision" was the purchase of the corridor land years ago at a cost of about $1 million per mile. He contrasted this with a recent lament of Colorado's Gov. John Hickenlooper who indicated that they are negotiating to purchase corridor land for a new rail system through the Denver area — some of which is costing $80 to $100 million per mile.

Other commendations were mentioned, such as "the best safety record in the United States" and an appreciation of the public who (in both Salt Lake and Utah counties) approved the requisite bonding just six years ago — an amazingly short time for analysis, engineering, construction, testing and operational delivery.

It's often said, "You can never go home again." I went home today. Maybe just for an hour, but I was back … back to the future actually. And because of enhanced transportation assets, the future of Utah and our soon-to-be 3 million residents along the Wasatch Front is brighter, faster and smoother.

Whether or not you ever ride FrontRunner, you, and your children after you, will benefit from the prosperity it delivers.

Mark Seethaler is a CPA, a resident of South Jordan and a member of the South Jordan City Council.

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