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TRAX begins running test trains on new airport line

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 3:58 p.m. MST

A TRAX train is tested along North Temple and Redwood Road Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Drivers along North Temple saw something new Tuesday: trains on the airport TRAX line.

The Utah Transit Authority is testing the trains, albeit slowly. The test vehicle travels at walking speed with frequent stops, gradually working its way west to approximately the midway point on the line and then returning on the opposite track.

Low-speed testing will continue Wednesday and Thursday. More frequent and higher-speed test trains will begin operating on the line as early as late November.

Starting Dec. 9, riders can stay on a Green Line train all the way to Arena Station. They will need to transfer to a Blue Line train if they would like to continue west to the Salt Lake Intermodal Hub.

The Green Line trains that used to stop at Arena Station will become test trains to simulate travel to the airport. 

The new line is good news for most businesses, but it could mean bad news for taxis. About 30 cabs are regularly parked at the airport, waiting to pick up passengers.

Don Barron, director of Yellow Cab, said he isn't nervous about the TRAX line because there was no way to stop it. But he admits it will have an effect.

"Every one of those people they haul will take away some of our business," Barron said.

He doesn't know how much it will impact his business, but the company will have to scale back the number of cabs at the airport when TRAX is fully operational on April 14.

Salt Lake City's Downtown Alliance can't wait for the airport TRAX line to go live, as it expects a boost in clientele for restaurants and the Salt Palace.

"We're building this infrastructure ahead of that population growth, so that's going to make this even more of an attractive place for business and families to relocate, and we have the infrastructure for that," said Nick Como with the Downtown Alliance.

The $350 million extension is scheduled to be operational by April. 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 City International Airport.

Passage from the airport to Arena Station at 400 West and South Temple in downtown Salt Lake City is estimated to take 20 minutes, with trains departing every 15 minutes.

About 4,600 passengers are expected to use the line daily.

E-mail: niyamba@ksl.com

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