SOUTH SALT LAKE — State and community leaders celebrated Friday the Utah Transit Authority's new S-Line double track, aimed to cut wait times between trains.
Leaders praised the track, which opened in late 2013, and said it sparked housing development around the area, incentivized public transit and cut down on the area's air pollution.
Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, lives near the S-Line and told the Deseret News he sometimes takes it to the airport when traveling to Washington, D.C.
"Public transit's the way that we clean our air. We need a mixed transportation system," he said. "We're going to need roads for people for whom a car's going to work, but the more options we can give people to get out of their car and choose to ride transit, the more we're going to be able to clean our air."
The $5.9 million addition to the line will provide service every 15 minutes rather than 20, something that may seem small to some, McAdams noted, but can make a huge difference.
"Really making this 15 minute increment interval on the line is only going to help (growth) as people know this is a quick and easy way to get to work or get to the airport. It's going to be used more and more," he said.
The new section of double tracking spans from 300 East to 500 East and connects the Fairmont Station in Sugar House to the Central Point TRAX/bus station in South Salt Lake.
According to UTA, the S-Line, which has seven stops, averaged more than 1,300 weekday boardings in 2018 and ridership increased by 60 percent since it opened in 2013.
"This isn't the end, it's only the beginning of trolleys throughout our community," said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. "I believe this is something that will grow in a number of different communities as we talk with other cities that I represent, they like what's happening here."
The 2-mile line is built on a rail corridor that originally served as a spur of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad and was purchased by UTA from Union Pacific in 2002.
Congress is considering future transportation infrastructure nationwide and discussing the nationwide affordable housing crisis, McAdams said. He shared an experience he had recently in Washington D.C.
"I had the opportunity to tell my colleagues about the S-Line and what it's done to spur housing development that's sustainable that allows people to actually afford the home they live in," he said Friday. "It's been a success that I think people around the country are looking at."
Detractors of the S-Line have called it a waste of taxpayer money, but McAdams said Tuesday it is an investment and an economy boost for the area.
"I would encourage them to walk the line and see what's happening and with a small taxpayer investment you've seen billions of dollars of private investment that's creating housing that we so desperately need and helping to clean our air," he said. "It's absolutely been an economy boost."
Salt Lake County funded $4 million for the project and the remaining $1.9 million came from Wasatch Front Regional Council Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grants.
"It really is a celebration when you see beautiful new housing, the frequency that we're going to enjoy with people being able to jump on and off every 15 minutes, that's going to really change I think the footprint of this area and give people even greater access to wherever it is they're headed," said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.
The county also pledged $500,000 for additional operating costs in the first three years of double track service. The investment is estimated to attract approximately 1,000 additional daily passengers by 2030, according to a UTA news release.1 comment on this story
South Salt Lake City Mayor Cherie Wood said the line has improved job access and creation, housing availability and high quality transportation that reduces travel time for residents.
"South Salt Lake has become a desirable place to call home and amenities like double track make it even more so," she said.
The train will start running every 15 minutes on Sunday in conjunction with UTA's April Change Day when its schedules are changed.
"The S-Line unofficially stands for success and starting Sunday will also stand for speed and so we hope the public will come and take advantage of it," said Carlton Christensen, UTA Board of Trustees chairman.