SALT LAKE CITY — New safety features on FrontRunner trains will slow down the travel time between Ogden and Provo, so most Utah Transit Authority schedules are changing Sunday to accommodate riders who need to transfer to buses or TRAX.
What's known as a positive train control system must be in place by the end of the year, according to a decade-old federal mandate to help prevent freight and commuter rail accidents caused by excessive speed.
UTA is spending about $34 million on the system, intended to make sure trains don't go faster than the track speed limits. Several sections of track currently don't shut down a train unless it is traveling 5 to 10 mph above the track speed limit.
But with the 79 mph speed limit remaining in place, the biggest impact on commuters will be the schedule changes, not the slightly slower train ride, said Steve Meyer, UTA acting vice president for operations, capital and assets.
"They really hopefully won't notice anything," Meyer said. "What they'll see is the timetable changes."
He recommended that UTA riders check their regular routes by going online to rideuta.com or calling the customer service center at 800-743-3882 (RIDE UTA), that's open Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"It is a big change, so take a little time this weekend," Meyer said, noting this is the probably the most schedule changes UTA has made at the same time.
The difference in schedules shouldn't be more than about 15 minutes, he said, and UTA is adding a FrontRunner train during the morning and evening commutes to ease the transition.
He said under the federal mandate, there's no longer any leeway for train operators to travel over the designed speed limits on stretches of track like the tight curves between the Draper FrontRunner station and Lehi.
Under the new system, trains will also automatically stop or slow to 15 mph before going through a malfunctioning railroad crossing and automatically slow through sections of track where maintenance or other work is underway.
Existing controls put in place when FrontRunner opened in April 2008 already prevent trains from colliding by automatically slowing or stopping a train before it enters a section of track occupied by another train.
Those controls also force trains to stop if they are heading in the wrong direction on a section of track and prevent trains from operating above set speed restrictions, the agency said.4 comments on this story
Meyer said the system is ground-based rather than relying on satellites, as freight trains have to do because of the variations in numbers of cars and the weight being hauled.
He said the difference created an issue with a section of track used by FrontRunner that's owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.
Last month, UTA announced FrontRunner service would be suspended between Ogden and Pleasant View in mid-August because it would cost about $1.5 million to switch to a satellite-based safety system there.
Alternative transportation options are planned between the two cities.