WEST VALLEY CITY — City leaders are pushing back against a plan endorsed by the Utah Transit Authority that would put light rail along 5600 West.
City manager Wayne Pyle sent a letter to the transit agency in late February saying that city planners don't foresee the suburban road as a good fit for permanent tracks.
The Deseret News received a copy of the letter through a Government Records Access and Management Act request. The letter was part of the city's response to plans for bus rapid transit lanes for 5600 West between 2700 South and 6200 South. The bus lines are expected to be built within five years, but no funding is available for the project.
In later phases, the rapid transit line is planned to be expanded to I-80 on the north and 11800 South on the other end.
The federal government has approved plans to build transit adjacent to Mountain View Corridor, which will ultimately link up with 5600 West in several spots.
If successful, the 5600 West bus line is planned to become a light rail line. Because of that projection, UTA is interested in buying needed right-of-way property for multiple TRAX stops.
"The property impacts at intersections are unacceptable," the letter from Pyle to UTA reads. "We don't see a need to buy right-of-way for a 350-foot-long future light rail transit station that may never be built. We believe bus rapid transit will be sufficient long-term and that there will not be a need for light rail transit."
First-year Mayor Mike Winder agrees with city staff on the issue and is encouraging UTA to save money on the project. Bus lines are about one-fifth the cost of rails, he explained.
"I think if you look at the type of housing densities light rail transit needs to support it, I'm not sure that 5600 West will have that kind of density," Winder said.
Currently, 5600 West runs along a collection of big-box stores and a few schools and gas stations. However, the street is mostly bordered by suburban homes on single lots. It ends with a four-way stop that leads to a dead end at about 6600 South.
Despite disagreements over the future of the street, UTA and West Valley remain committed to working together, both sides said.
UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said the transit agency's plans for light rail could go unfulfilled for decades.
"Community support is critical to whatever is ultimately built," Carpenter said. "It's always better to overplan and underconstruct than the other way around."
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