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A train to Tooele? UTA seeks feedback on ways to improve transit between Salt Lake, Tooele counties

FrontRunner Provo to Salt Lake City line, June 2011


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TOOELE — Could there be a train or a rapid bus system that connects Salt Lake City with Tooele in the not too distant future?

Those are two of four possibilities that are part of a plan to improve the connection between the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys as the population in the two areas is expected to double in the next 30 years. Utah Transit Authority officials are now seeking input on the ideas as they move forward with the Tooele Valley Transit Feasibility Study.

UTA launched an online open house Wednesday, where Tooele Valley residents and other individuals can provide feedback on four options that were circled as possible transit alternatives from an open house held earlier this year.

The four alternatives that people can submit feedback on are high-frequency bus routes with several stops between Salt Lake City and Tooele, a high-frequency bus route with fewer stops between the two points, a rapid transit bus system similar to one already in use in Utah County and a heavy rail line similar to UTA's FrontRunner.

Over the next two weeks, people have the option to sift through the pros and cons of all four alternatives, vote if they like the idea or not, and submit comments online for the possible projects.

"Our team has been attentive to the diverse viewpoints and values of community stakeholders and residents in order to offer feasible transit alternatives for the future growth of the Valley," said Kayla Kinkead, a strategic planner for UTA, in a statement. "This area is projected to double in population by 2050, so It's important for UTA to start planning for future growth, including transit strategies and recommendations to enhance the regional mobility network."

There are already some bus connections between Salt Lake and Tooele counties, but the options are slim and not very frequent as compared to routes within the Wasatch Front.

As of Wednesday, Route 451 connects downtown Salt Lake City with Tooele with five buses every weekday, while Route 454 connects downtown Salt Lake City with Grantsville with two buses every weekend — and those buses only run early morning to Salt Lake City and early evenings to Grantsville. There's also a Tooele-SLC Flex route that connects UTA's 1950 W. North Temple station with Tooele with eight vehicles running every weekday.

All four options presented as a part of the future Tooele transit plan would boost transit options.

Option 1: A "Mixed Flow Express Bus" would travel between 450 S. 550 West in Salt Lake City — not far from Salt Lake Central Station — and 200 N. Main in Tooele, with a path along I-80 and stops north of Stansbury Park and in Erda. The bus would operate in regular traffic, which could delay travel times but would be one of the cheapest options.

Option 2: A "Mixed Flow Express Bus" that would look similar to the first option but with fewer stops. UTA listed the same pros and cons when it comes to travel time, ridership and costs for both projects.

These maps show the projected routes of a bus (left), rapid-transit bus (middle) or a heavy rail train (right) between Salt Lake City and Tooele that UTA officials are seeking feedback on.
These maps show the projected routes of a bus (left), rapid-transit bus (middle) or a heavy rail train (right) between Salt Lake City and Tooele that UTA officials are seeking feedback on. (Photo: Utah Transit Authority)

The third and fourth options would look vastly different from anything currently available between the two areas.

Option 3: A rapid bus transit system similar to the UVX in Utah County and another project underway in Weber County. Under this proposal, a high-frequency bus would travel to the same destinations but would have its own lanes of travel allowing it to bypass congested areas between Salt Lake City and Tooele. UTA listed it as the fastest option of the four alternatives, but its annualized costs would be more expensive than the traditional bus route.

Option 4: A heavy rail line similar to UTA's FrontRunner that currently runs from Ogden to Provo. The proposed route would begin at South Temple between 600 West and 800 West in Salt Lake City and follow tracks all the way to a location in Tooele near St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church, 1784 Aaron Drive. Unlike FrontRunner, which makes many stops between Ogden and Provo, the only other proposed stop would be in Stansbury Park.

The train would bypass any problems with roadway congestion, but UTA lists problems such as steeper costs. It also would require "extensive coordination" between UTA and Union Pacific.

Individuals can provide their feedback on a webpage created by UTA. The page provides links to documents of all four possible projects. The deadline to submit feedback is Dec. 16.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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