Utah Transit Authority (UTA)
This page was last updated on June 27, 2014.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
Information about Utah Transit Authority's TRAX Light Rail, and FrontRunner Commuter Rail Project.
TRAX Light Rail
UTA TRAX -- Information about UTA's light rail system in Salt Lake City.
FrontRunner Commuter Rail
UTA FrontRunner -- Information about UTA's Wasatch Front commuter rail system, known as FrontRunner.
UTA Buses -- Information about the history of UTA's transit bus system, and how the old Utah Light & Traction electrified trolley buses, and later Salt Lake City Lines gasoline and diesel buses, evolved into today's Utah Transit Authority public transit system for northern Utah.
UTA Sugar House Streetcar -- Information about the current streetcar service to the Sugar House district in Salt Lake City.
Historic Streetcars in Utah -- An index page for historic streetcar information throughout Utah, including Salt Lake City and Ogden.
General UTA News Items
May 15, 2002
Provo City officials held a ceremony to dedicate a new passenger depot in Provo at 600 South and 300 West. Although commuter rail was at least 10 years in the future, city officials hoped that the new depot would serve as a transportation hub for buses, trains, and light rail services. (Deseret News, May 16, 2002)
September 20, 2002
A ceremony was held on the steps of the state capital, for the signing of the $185 million check to Union Pacific. In attendance were Utah governor Mike Leavitt, U. S. congressmen Jim Matheson and Chris Cannon, Union Pacific chairman, president and CEO Richard Davidson, and UTA general manager John Inglish. (BYU NewsNet, September 19, 2002; Deseret News, September 19, 2002; Union Pacific press release dated September 20, 2002) The sale was formally closed on September 23, 2002. (UTA press release dated September 23, 2002)
The original agreement for the sale was signed between UTA and Union Pacific on Thursday January 17, 2002. (Deseret News, January 16, 2002; January 17, 2002) Negotiations for the sale began in March 2002, and included over 20 separate agreements, covering the purchase, right-of-way access, and environmental issues. (Deseret News, October 18, 2001) UTA originally asked that UP share its track, which UP would not allow. Instead, UP would sell UTA a 20-foot corridor adjacent to its freight tracks, and the agreement for the adjacent corridor was signed on February 5, 2001. (Utah League of Cities and Towns, legislative Committee Meeting Minutes, February 19, 2001)
The corridors in the sale included:
- A north/south corridor running parallel to the freight mainline, from Payson to Brigham City.
- The former D&RGW line between North Salt Lake and South Ogden.
- A line between South Salt Lake and Sugarhouse (known as the Sugarhouse Spur)
- A line from Midvale to West Jordan/South Jordan (known as the Bingham Industrial Spur).
- An extension of the existing north/south TRAX line into Utah County (part of what is known as the Provo Industrial Lead) (10000 South in Sandy, over Point of the Mountain to Lehi)
- UP would keep the three miles of line between Lehi and Orem, at the former Lakota Crossing
- A line between Orem and Provo (part of what is known as the Provo Industrial Lead)
- A line south from Spanish Fork (known as the Tintic Industrial lead)
The facilities in the sale included:
- North Salt Lake facility (the former UP intermodal yard at Becks Street)
- Maintenance facility (the former UP diesel shop)
- Clearfield facility (the former UP automobile ramp)
In a related note, the sale of the former intermodal yard depended on Union Pacific being able to build a new 300-acre intermodal and automobile unloading ramp facility on Salt Lake City's west side, at 5600 West and 800 South. On July 29, 2002, the Salt Lake City Council approved UP's plans for the new facility. The new facility would allow Union Pacific to close its intermodal ramp at Becks Street, and its automobile unloading ramp at Clearfield. (Deseret News, July 30, 2002; Salt Lake Tribune, July 30, 2002; Trains News Wire, August 1, 2002; UPOnline, August 6, 2002)
The location for the new "Intermodal Freight Hub" was negotiated by UTA and was on land owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 6, 2002) The original application and petition was presented by Union Pacific and UTA to the Salt Lake City Council on June 4, 2002, and the council set a public hearing to be held on July 2, 2002. (Memorandum, Salt Lake City mayor to Salt Lake City Council, dated May 31, 2002, which included specific improvements and street closures by the applicants.)May 28, 2003
UTA tested a prototype rail diesel car, built by Colorado Railcar, based in Lupton, Colorado. The cars was tested along UTA's track between Sandy and Draper, which had not yet been converted for light rail use. (Deseret News, April 11, 2003; May 28, 2003)
September 17, 2003
UTA and Union Pacific signed a final agreement for UTA to take formal ownership of the former Union Pacific diesel shop complex near 800 North and Beck Street. A ceremony was held on September 17 to unveil a new UTA sign on the east face of the building. Taking ownership of the building would save UTA $20 million to build a new facility, and with plenty of space available, the facility would also house numerous other UTA activities, including the dispatch center for the commuter rail service when it started in 2008. (UTA press release dated September 17, 2003; Deseret News, September 19, 2003, "Wednesday morning")
UTA moved into its new offices, located at 669 West 200 South, just west of the transit hub. As many as 240 (increasing to 400) workers were expected to move into the new building, bringing together all of the personnel to see to the timely completion of two commuter rail lines, and four light rail lines, all by 2015. (Deseret News, December 4, 2007)
In 2013, UTA saw a year of record ridership with more than 44 million boardings. UTA also opened the S-Line and concluded its FrontLines 2015 program under budget and two years ahead of schedule, with the completion of TRAX lines to Draper and the Salt Lake International Airport. (Utah Transit Authority news release dated June 25, 2014, on the occasion of American Public Transportation Association naming the Utah Transit Authority as Outstanding Public Transportation System of 2014; link)
Salt Lake City Trackside Guide -- Trackside Guide for Salt Lake City, lifted from Trains magazine, November 2012. Shows TRAX and Frontrunner lines. (1 page; 500KB)
Will Bagley's article -- "A Century Ago, Salt Lake Was Transit Model" from Salt Lake Tribune.
UtahRails.net UTA FrontRunner and TRAX Photo Albums -- Six separate albums of both FrontRunner lines, and four TRAX lines under construction.
UtahRails.net FrontRunner Albums -- Six separate albums with FrontRunner photos by Don Strack.
Lew Jessop's Photos -- Lew Jessop's UtahTransit site.
Commuter Rail and Light Rail, What's The Difference?
UTA's Frontrunner falls under Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) jurisdiction, and TRAX falls under Federal Transit Administration (FTA) jurisdiction. There are no apparent plans to connect TRAX with Frontrunner, including (as some have mentioned) sharing the Warm Springs maintenance facility.
A good definition about the differences between commuter rail (UTA's Frontrunner) and light rail (UTA's TRAX) comes from Railway Age:
Jurisdiction covering urban transit properties, such as "light rail", subways and elevated systems, traditionally has fallen to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), while Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) took care of Class I freight railroads, Amtrak, and "commuter rail" systems. Where an "urban" system physically connects with another railroad -- freight or passenger -- however, FRA assumed oversight. The bistate New York/New Jersey Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rapid transit system, an urban circulator in New York City, falls into this category, in part because its physical plant connects with Amtrak's Northeast Corridor in New Jersey.
FRA's oversight, approved by Congress, expanded significantly under a joint statement issued by FRA and FTA on July 10, 2000. FRA's "Policy on Jurisdiction Over Passenger Operations" states in part: "Under Federal railroad safety laws, FRA has jurisdiction over all railroads except rapid transit operations in an urban area that are not connected to the general railroad system of transportation. . . . Within the limits imposed by this authority, FRA exercises jurisdiction over all railroad passenger operations, regardless of equipment used, unless FRA has specifically stated an exception to its exercise of jurisdiction for a particular type of operation." (Railway Age, Volume 209, Number 7, July 2008, page 17)