Senate appropriators voted Thursday to put nearly $100 million on track to expand the FrontRunner and Trax train systems for Utah commuters. They also approved more than another $100 million for Utah energy and water projects.
About moving the rail projects along, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said, "As we face the price of gas at the pump and work toward conserving energy, it is important to provide residents with efficient and cost-saving alternative ways to get where they're going."
He is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved the Utah funding as it passed two separate bills for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. One bill is for energy and water projects, and the other is for the Department of Transportation.
The bills now go to the full Senate. However, in the House, all appropriations bills have stalled amid fights over oil and energy issues, and they may not move until after the November elections. Congress may depend on temporary bills to fund the government at current levels until after the election.
Bennett said Senate appropriators approved $81.6 million to begin preliminary design and environmental work on expanding the FrontRunner commuter rail.
It currently runs between Salt Lake City and Pleasant View, near Ogden. The line is expected eventually to run from Payson to Brigham City. The Bush administration had included the funding in its budget request.
The bill includes $10 million to begin construction on a 10-mile extension of Trax to the Daybreak area in South Jordan. It would travel from a current Trax station at 6400 South through Murray, Midvale and West Jordan.
It also includes $5 million to help pay for intermodal terminals, including helping to fund recent terminals on a Trax extension through the Gateway area in Salt Lake City to make it easier for commuters to transfer between FrontRunner and Trax. It also will help fund design and land purchase for intermodal hubs in West Valley City, Orem and Provo, Bennett said.
Among other Utah funding in the Senate version of the transportation bill is $2 million to expand state Route 191 between Moab and Crescent Junction from two lanes to four lanes, $500,000 to help Provo build a downtown parking structure and $400,000 to improve lighting and "streetscaping" on State and Main streets through South Salt Lake.
Also included in the transportation bill was $400,000 for the second phase of a downtown Clearfield redevelopment project; $400,000 to help San Juan County build a community center to host rodeos, concerts and other events to promote tourism; $200,000 to complete an informational center for the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area; and $250,000 for a community center in Lewiston, Cache County.
The energy and water bill includes $42 million for the Central Utah Project for ongoing projects. The CUP brings water from eastern Utah to the Wasatch Front.
The energy and water bill also includes $32.6 million to help fund removal of the Atlas uranium mill tailings near Moab and gives the University of Utah $4 million for research on producing oil from oil shale. An additional $1 million is earmarked for for an Energy Department project to advance technology refining oil shale by removing metals and other byproducts.
Also, it includes $1 million for Utah State University to research the economic impact of wind power in Utah's rural communities,; $12 million for improvements to rural water systems in Utah,; $21.9 million for the Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Program,; and $600 for USU research on river restoration and dynamics.It also includes $500,000 for a study on how to expand water supplies for Park City and surrounding areas.
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