Its destination is Salt Lake City International Airport, but Luke Garrott prefers to call it the "North Temple line."

After all, construction of a new light-rail line is not just about getting people to and from the airport, the Salt Lake City councilman said. It's also about neighborhood building on the city's west side.

"We want to make the North Temple line as neighborhood-friendly and as much of a positive catalyst for the city as possible," Garrott said. "It's a great opportunity."

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Utah Transit Authority assistant general manager Mike Allegra signed an agreement between the project partners Thursday for a new TRAX line running along 400 West to North Temple and then west to the airport.

The ceremonial signing at Salt Lake Central Station came a month after the deal was unanimously approved by the Salt Lake City Council and UTA's board of trustees.

"This agreement has been a very long time coming," Becker said.

Environmental work was done in 1999 as part the TRAX line to the University of Utah. The line was originally envisioned to run from the university to the airport, but it ended up being shortened to connect the U. with downtown.

"Ever since then, (Salt Lake City and UTA) have been working hard to bring this line to fruition," Becker said.

Allegra called the agreement "a watershed moment for transit in Utah." Over the next seven years, UTA is committed to build 70 new miles of light- and commuter-rail lines, pushing its statewide total to 150 miles, he said.

"This is a big piece of a very large transit system that UTA has been developing at an incredible rate up and down the Wasatch Front," Becker said.

As part of the agreement, UTA will extend the downtown free-fare zone to include Library Station at 225 E. 400 South. In addition, the transit authority will work with the city to explore the use of renewable energy sources to power the light-rail stations along the new line.

Becker said the rail line is being viewed as a "demonstration project" for responsible energy use and sustainable development.

The mayor also announced plans to recreate North Temple as a "grand boulevard," a makeover that will feature four lanes with the TRAX line running down the center, a "refinished" viaduct, the addition of two bicycle lanes in each direction and new landscaping features.

"I think it will be a real boon in economic development opportunities along North Temple through the west side of Salt Lake City," Becker said.

The new line will provide service to the airport from downtown with six new stations, including the final stop at the airport's passenger terminal.

The funding agreement calls for the city to assign to UTA $2 per vehicle registered in Salt Lake County. The revenue stream, created by the state Legislature, will continue until the $35 million for Salt Lake City's portion of the cost — with interest — is met.

Because the revenue is collected by Salt Lake County, the County Council also must approve the agreement.


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