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Chad Eccles, Provo-Orem BRT Project Manager
Potential bus rapid-transit stop at 100 West in Provo.

OREM — This isn't your average bus ride.

With the approval of a bus rapid-transit corridor through Orem and Provo, riders on Utah Transit Authority lines will soon have shorter waits, newer buses and faster commuting times.

"(It's) a new level of transit for Utah County," said Chad Eccles, a transportation transit planner for Mountainland Association of Governments and project lead for BRT. "It's really revolutionizing the way we look at transit, the access we can provide. It's a huge step forward."

A governing committee made up of officials from the Utah Department of Transportation, UTA, MAG, and Brigham Young and Utah Valley universities has approved the BRT corridor that will someday wind through Orem and Provo

The high-speed travel option will funnel buses from Orem down along University Parkway into Provo every five minutes on a widened road.

Once in Provo, the route will snake through the BYU campus, then along 700 North. It will head down 100 West to an intermodal hub near the Provo Towne Centre mall, then wind around Novell before looping back up, Eccles said.

With commuter rail in process to connect Utah and Salt Lake counties, BRT is the next major facet.

BYU football fans could head down from Salt Lake City on commuter rail and jump on BRT at an intermodal hub in Orem or Vineyard. From there, it would be an accelerated trip to LaVell Edwards Stadium — avoiding the pain of parking and traffic jams, Eccles said.

The trip would be faster due to the use of "soft pre-emption signals," explained Paul Goodrich, Orem City Transportation Engineer.

Rather than forcing a quick light change, like some emergency vehicles, a soft-change signal would recognize if a bus were approaching and keep the light green a few seconds longer, Goodrich said. Or if the light was red, it could change colors a few seconds earlier.

But before any construction starts, officials have to conduct an environmental analysis to review how the project would affect surrounding areas, Eccles said. It should be sent to federal agencies for approval by the end of the year.

Eccles said the BRT corridor is expected to be "significantly" built by 2011, by the time commuter rail makes it to Utah County.

Orem officials see the project as a huge benefit to their city and the growing county.

"We're really trying to look into the future and make sure we can accommodate growth in the area ... and not wait for future demand," Goodrich said. "We'll trying to be proactive in planning for that and provide an alternate means of transportation."

Orem is also hoping to create better sidewalks on the south side of University Parkway by the mall, install a signalized intersection into the mall between State Street and 800 East, as well as look into an underground walkway between the Wal-Mart parking lot on Sandhill Road and UVU.

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