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OGDEN — President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that he is awarding $64.5 million in federal funding toward a rapid bus rapid transit project that aims to connect the Ogden FrontRunner station and the heart of downtown Ogden with the Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital.
Utah Transit Authority officials initially said they believed they had already gotten the go-ahead for the project, but amended that Thursday night to say they had applied for federal money on the project and weren't sure where they were in the process.
"We will take this tweet as a positive sign," UTA spokesperson Carl Arky said, adding that construction is expected to begin the fall.
The amount pledged by the federal government will cover nearly two-thirds of the estimated $99.68 million Ogden/Weber State University BRT project, according to a November 2019 document on the U.S. Department of Transportation website.
Trump tweeted, “Ogden, Utah, I am committing $64.5M to build bus service between Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital—very important services for Utahans!”
Ogden, Utah, I am committing $64.5M to build bus service between Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital—very important services for Utahans! @RideUTA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2020
His tweet about the Ogden project came during a string of tweets about transit projects across the U.S. that will receive federal funding.
The project is similar to UTA’s bus rapid transit service system that launched in Utah County in August 2018. Instead of using a light rail system like Salt Lake County has in TRAX, the plan calls for buses on a quicker schedule and on a designated lane for faster service.
The U.S. Department of Transportation document says that the Ogden/Weber State University BRT will be 5.3 miles of rapid bus transit with 13 stations. Buses will operate every 10 minutes during weekday peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak periods and evenings. They will run every 30 minutes on weekends.
Other details include 2.2 miles of exclusive bus lanes and transit signal priority, as well as "eight uniquely branded vehicles, and construction of a transit center on the WSU campus," the document continues.
"The project corridor serves multiple activity centers, including WSU with 26,000 students, downtown Ogden, the Junction shopping district, and the Lindquist Field minor-league baseball stadium," the document states. "The project includes a new bus-only road on WSU’s campus to improve transit travel times and provide more direct service between the university and key local destinations."
According to UTA's website, the project will replace Route 603, which is one of its most frequently used bus routes. The exclusive bus lanes are from 32nd Street and Harrison Boulevard to the Dee Events Center on the Weber State campus.
UTA officials said the project is expected to provide transit access to jobs in Ogden, help address air quality on the Wasatch Front, and reduce congestion and parking demand at the university.
While construction for the project is expected to begin in the fall, Arky said there's a long window for when it is expected to be completed. He said it may be complete as early as summer 2022 or sometime in 2023.