All aboard (Saturday) for U. TRAX

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2001 11:07 a.m. MST

Make that 17.3 miles.

With the 2.3-mile TRAX university line expected to open tomorrow, the Utah Transit Authority's TRAX system will run for a grand total of 17.3 miles. The 15-mile north/south line opened Dec. 4, 1999.

Businesses along 400 South — newly renamed University Boulevard — are breathing a sigh of relief now that the line is complete. But some are more enthusiastic than others about TRAX.

Dave Clark, co-owner and general manager of Squirrel Brothers Ice Cream and Coffee at 605 E. 400 South, is particularly "stoked" about the opening.

"We're happy we made it through," he said, referring to the construction the business has endured since August 2000, when the project began.

Clark said he expects an increase in business because of the university line, which has a station just across the street.

"I really feel like this is going to be the biggest year we've had yet," he said.

Others don't anticipate a significant increase because of the TRAX line.

Mike Weiss, owner of Lorenz Grinding Service at 29 E. 400 South, says most of his business is by word of mouth. The 80-year-old business sharpens knives and scissors and sells high-end cutlery. He does hope to see some new customers because of the line but is keeping his fingers crossed.

"Who knows whether they'll be allowed to carry knives on TRAX," he said.

Salt Lake Roasting Co. owner John Bolton is trying not to be overly optimistic about an increase in customers but said he'll be ecstatic if it happens. The removal of parking along the street has been devastating to his business, he says.

"A lot of people still stubbornly embrace their own vehicles," he said, and the loss of parking "has alienated many of my customers."

University of Utah spokeswoman Coralie Alder said the line will provide "a very viable transportation option for all university audiences." One audience — the university's students — probably won't take advantage right away, though. The last final for students is today, and most students and faculty won't be around much during the next three weeks or so. But school is back in session Jan. 3 and Alder said she expects TRAX to be utilized by many students and faculty at that time.

"TRAX, we expect, will be a great choice for everybody coming up here," she said.

And the more than 8,000 students living in the southern part of the valley can take advantage of a direct route from the Sandy station to Rice-Eccles Stadium. The direct route will run twice a day, once in the early morning and once in the evening. Riders on all other routes from the north/south line will have to transfer at the Gallivan Plaza Station, but UTA spokesman Kris McBride said the wait to transfer to the university line would be no more than three minutes at any time.

McBride said UTA will be looking at ridership on the Sandy-to-U. direct line to determine if any changes need to be made.

"We're putting it into the schedule because people say it's a good idea," he said. "We'll put it in and see how it works."

The $118.5 million university line will have the same hours of operation as the north/south line, and will have four stations — at 200, 600 and 900 East and Rice-Eccles Stadium. The project was completed ahead of schedule and on budget, McBride said.

Three bus routes have been modified to provide access to the university line — Route 6 (1500 East), Route 54 (Olympus Cove) and Route 3 (Third Avenue). After the Olympics, McBride said bus service will be further expanded.

Also in store after the Olympics is a light-rail extension to the medical center. Design work for the project is ongoing, and Congress recently approved $3 million — a show of support. McBride said work is likely to start in April but is contingent upon a full-funding grant agreement. That project will cost $90 million and be 1.5 miles long.

To celebrate the university line opening, rides on all TRAX trains and buses will be free Saturday. In addition, there will be food and fun at each of the four university stations.

"We're encouraging people to come out, get off the train and get to know the community," McBride said.


E-MAIL: lculler@desnews.com

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