Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After nearly three years of construction, work on the light rail line to Salt Lake International Airport is nearing completion.
The Utah Transit Authority, along with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker observed the pouring of the final section of red concrete Monday at the intersection of 900 West and North Temple. A number of civic and project leaders participated in the ceremonial event marking a major milestone in the building of the long-awaited airport TRAX project.
The $350 million extension is scheduled to be operational by April 2013, according to UTA general manager Michael Allegra.
"(The Airport TRAX line) is the number one line talked about in the valley … out of all 77 miles that we're building right now," he said. "We're excited to open this up. We believe that there is a strong market for it."
Under construction since January 2009, the new UTA Airport TRAX line is one of five rail projects UTA has had on its construction agenda in the past few years. The others include the $535 million Mid-Jordan TRAX extension and the $370 million West Valley TRAX line — which both began operation last August. Also the $212 million Draper TRAX extension and the $850 million FrontRunner commuter-rail line that will run from downtown Salt Lake City to Provo.
UTA is currently running test trains on the Utah County Frontrunner extension.
The six-mile, airport light-rail line will have stations along North Temple at 500 West, 800 West, 1100 West, 1500 West, 1950 West and a Welcome Center station at Salt Lake International Airport. Passage from the airport to Arena station at 400 West and South Temple in downtown Salt Lake is estimated to take 20 minutes with trains departing every 15 minutes.
Construction on the project is scheduled to be finished later this year, with testing of trains and the electrical systems to begin in early 2013.
Becker said that in addition to the light rail tracks, the street will include dedicated lanes for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians along with improved lighting at night to provide a welcoming environment for shoppers and residents.
"This is going to be a beautiful example of what streets can be to serve everybody," Becker said. "We're going to see this area revitalized with new businesses. As a city, this means that this whole corridor and part of the west side is going to see some rejuvenation — which is long overdue."
UTA estimates approximately 10,000 passengers per day will ride the service by 2015 and up to 14,000 per day by 2030.
Allegra compared the Airport TRAX line construction along North Temple to the development of the University line that runs along 400 South. He described that project as "transformational" to the Fourth Street corridor which now boasts a vibrant business and retail environment.
"The character of that street has been significantly enhanced by development that has occurred … it's a place where people hang out now," he said. "We believe (North Temple) will see that same kind of activity."
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