DRAPER — Utah is getting some help from Uncle Sam to get light rail rolling to the far end of the South Valley. The Federal Transit Administration Monday pledged $116 million to help the Utah Transit Authority pay for the TRAX extension that will end in Draper.
The Draper TRAX line is a 3.8-mile extension of the TRAX Blue line that currently runs between Sandy to downtown Salt Lake City. The new extension will include three new stops at 11400 South, 11800 South and Pioneer Road (12400 South).
The Draper line is part of UTA’s $2.8 billion FrontLines 2015 program that includes FrontRunner commuter rail from Salt Lake City to Provo and light rail lines to West Valley, South Jordan and Salt Lake City International Airport.
"What this (funding) will do is provide reliable and desirable transit for the people of these communities," said FTA head Peter Rogoff. "The financing challenge (for UTA) is now complete. We know that we are going to be able to afford the entire extension."
Rogoff said the funding commitment marks a "culminating event" that provides jobs through public investments that improve the quality of life for local citizens. The project, which includes three new stations with park-and-ride-facilities, will run parallel to the heavily traveled I-15 corridor from the south valley to Salt Lake City.
"You see extraordinary economic development around these transit stations," he explained. Communities that invest in enhanced mass transit are highly thought of and sought after by companies considering expanding or relocating, he said.
In addition to the Blue Line, UTA also operates the Mid-Jordan Red Line that runs between Daybreak Parkway stop in South Jordan and the University Medical Center as well as the Green Line running from West Valley Central to Salt Lake Central in downtown. Both lines began operation in August.
Since that time, the number of people using light rail has increased significantly, according to UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. He said TRAX ridership is up about 26 percent for the 12-month period from November 2010 to November 2011, and up 10 percent for commuter rail.
"The 26 percent increase in TRAX ridership is largely due to the increase of service in August," Carpenter said.
The Mid-Jordan line, now part of Red Line, cost $535 million to build, with 80 percent — or $427 million — coming from federal sources. Meanwhile, the $370 million West Valley (Green) line, the $350 million Airport Line and $850 million FrontRunner to Provo were all 100 percent locally funded, Carpenter noted.
The total cost of the Draper extension is estimated to be $194 million, with 60 percent — or $116 million — federally funded.
Right now, the projected openings for the remaining lines are late 2013 for the Salt Lake City International Airport and Draper TRAX extensions, and 2014 for the FrontRunner extension to Provo.
"This is the last piece of the financial puzzle that we needed to put together to finish all of the projects," said UTA General Manager Michael Allegra. "Funding is tight … so having these contributions from the federal government really helped move this project along."