WEST JORDAN — The kickoff was grand for a system that's grown dramatically since opening a little more than a decade ago.
The Utah Transit Authority launched the new Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines with a rail-hopping celebration, complete with a brass band and fireworks that started in Daybreak and ended in West Valley City. The lines are schedule to open to the public on Aug. 7.
The lines represent "an unbelievable exercise in public private partnership," said Don Whyte, president of Kennecott Land. "I don't think there's another transit authority in the country that could have pulled together what happened here."
The new lines would have been impossible if not for the taxpayers in Salt Lake County who voted to increase their own taxes by a quarter cent back in 2006. That vote helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the TRAX expansion.
"I'm grateful to the citizens of Salt Lake County who got behind these TRAX lines and gave us the funding mechanism," said South Jordan Mayor Kent Money.
The expansion adds 77 new light-rail cars in addition to the 69 already being used by TRAX. The lines also add 17 miles of new track and that nearly doubles the existing mileage of tracks on the entire light rail system.
The two lines feature 14 new stops in South Jordan, West Jordan and West Valley City. The total cost of the project is roughly $900 million, a mix of federal and local money.
Projected ridership for the two lines is 14,000 riders a day. Officials on hand say it will spur development in places like downtown West Valley City.
"You look at each of the stations, and not only are they convenient to the business parks, the Maverik Center, Valley Fair Mall," West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said, "but they are really opportunities for transit-oriented development, economic development, new jobs and growth in West Valley."
"We are proud of our record of building every one of our TRAX lines ahead of schedule, under budget and significantly exceeding our ridership expectations," Mike Allegra, general manager of UTA, said. "And we expect to have that on this line as well."
This is part of an ambitious project to build 70 miles of new lines in seven years, and commuters will be seeing new lines opening up in 2013 to the Salt Lake City International Airport and Draper, and then 2014 to Provo.
"It's a great day. It's amazing how fast this project got done," said Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. "It was just a few years ago that we voted on this as the mayors in the county and here we are several years later and it's done."