New TRAX Extension Opens Monday

New TRAX Extension Opens Monday

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The shortest and most complicated stretch of the TRAX light-rail system is scheduled to open Monday.

The Utah Transit Authority, which opened the first TRAX line four years ago, announced the 1.5-mile stretch of track has been finished more than a year early for $89.4 million, which is on budget.

With a winding route that takes the new line right through campus, the trains will be interacting with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists at a level that simply doesn't exist elsewhere in the TRAX system.

Safety will be an ongoing concern.

"It's a unique operating environment from what we've had in the past. We're going to be close to a lot of places where people want to go," said Paul O'Brien, UTA's director of rail services.

Three new stations have been added for the medical center spur, which will make its debut with an 11:30 a.m. ceremony and will be open to passengers by early afternoon.

The new TRAX spur should provide immediate relief for the sprawling medical complex -- including Primary Children's Medical Center, the Moran Eye Center and the Huntsman Cancer Institute -- which employs more than 14,000 workers, handles thousands more patients and is perpetually short on parking spaces.

TRAX officials project an initial weekday ridership of around 3,000 a day on the new spur, and expect those numbers to climb over time. Currently, 7,500 commuters a day take TRAX to the university on weekdays and more than 31,000 passengers a day use TRAX systemwide, Monday through Friday.

"I'm already taking the train to the U., and with the shuttle from the stadium it takes me about an hour to get to work," says Babir Singh, a Sandy resident who works as a nursing assistant at University Hospital. "I'm sure I'll be saving 15 minutes, and maybe even a half-hour once the train starts running to the hospital."

But that short, seven-minute hop from the stadium to the end of the line will bear watching, particularly in the first few months of operation.

The new TRAX line sits between campus facilities to the north and major parking lots to the south. Students and staff will have to cross the tracks daily to get where they are going. Motorists will have to navigate the large roundabout at the intersection of South Campus and Campus Center drives -- which has been in operation for months now -- and three other intersections that don't allow turns on red lights.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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