Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, asked Congress Thursday for more than $20 million to help build a light-rail system in Utah and to expand 5600 West in West Valley City into "a limited-access artery."

Owens said he expects the light-rail system to be completed and operating by 1998. And he said expansion of 5600 West is "essential" to keep Hercules and its 4,000 jobs in Utah and to help West Valley City develop an industrial park near it.Owens told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation that after recent tours of light-rail systems in San Diego and Portland, "I am now completely convinced that a light-rail system, along with a bus network, will greatly contribute to solving our congesting problems and future commuting problems."

He said the Wasatch Front is perfect for such a system because mountains to the east and west have forced most transportation corridors to evolve generally in a north-south pattern. "This history allows an excellent opportunity for a light-rail system within an existing railroad north-south corridor."

He requested $15 million for fiscal 1992 to complete preliminary engineering, final design and project management. He said the Utah Transit Authority is already proceeding with engineering and negotiating the acquisition of 15 miles of Union Pacific Railroad right of way for the project.

Owens added, "UTA anticipates finalizing the engineering phases within three to four years, with construction to be completed and the system operating by 1998."

Owens said that traffic congestion on 5600 West poses "a serious threat to West Valley City's development." So the Utah Department of Transportation and local communities are planning to expand the road from its 66-foot width "to a 134-foot-wide limited access arterial."

An aide to Owens said 5600 West would not quite be a freeway but would be a multilane highway with only a few access points.

Owens said that road is needed for development of an industrial park planned by West Valley City to buffer the rocket plant of Hercules from the expanding residential areas. Hercules had threatened to leave Utah unless such a buffer were provided.

The city issued $9 million in bonds to buy land for that park, "which placed the city in significant debt," Owens said.

He added, "The success of the industrial/recreation project is totally dependent on sufficient access to the site . . . 5600 West is the only viable access link connecting the indus-trial/recreational park with the 2100 South freeway, I-80 and Salt Lake International Airport."

Owens said without an expanded 5600 West, "The city's ability to sell property for industrial uses is severely curtailed. Hence, the city would be unable to meet its debt obligations and the entire effort to protect Hercules and to retain (its) 4,000 jobs would fail."

Owens is asking for $2.79 million a year in fiscal 1992 and 1993 to help with widening of the road between 3500 South and 4100 South. He said most of 5600 West faces undeveloped land - except in that already developed section where right-of-way acqusition costs will be about $7 million.

Owens said state and local governments will pay 20 percent of that cost and is requesting money be appropriated for the federal share.