Utah Transit Authority ridership increased 12.5 percent in 2008, thanks to the opening of the FrontRunner commuter rail between Salt Lake City and Ogden and high gasoline prices, according to an audit discussed Wednesday at a UTA trustees meeting.

The audit, completed by Deloitte & Touche LLP, also found that two surcharges last year increased income from passenger fares $9.2 million, or 37.6 percent, which brought operating revenue from passengers and advertisers to $34.9 million in 2008, from $25.6 million in 2007.

State law requires UTA to hire an auditor to look over its finances each year. UTA paid Deloitte & Touche about $95,000 for the audit of the books from December 2007 to December 2008. In a few weeks, the audit will be part of UTA's annual report and will be online at rideuta.com.

UTA Trustee Orrin Colby Jr. noted that auditors had a "clean opinion" of UTA's finances.

Despite increases in fares, UTA experienced a net decrease of $3.1 million or 1.6 percent in sales-tax revenue for 2008, the audit said.

Total revenues in 2008 were $356.5 million, down from $648.5 million the year before. Revenues were greater in 2007 largely because of construction spending. Some construction expenses for rail haven't been reimbursed by the federal government, the audit said.

UTA issued $700 million in bonds last year, and the new debt contributed to a $23.5 million increase in current liabilities, from $72.2 million in 2007 to $95.8 million in 2008.

But with the construction of FrontRunner, the bus rapid-transit line in West Valley City and the intermodal hub in Salt Lake City, UTA had an increase in net assets of $97 million in 2008, to $1.2 billion, compared with $1.1 billion in 2007.

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