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PANEL PUSHING FOR NEW DEPOT IN UTAH VALLEY

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Plans for a new railroad station are getting on track in Utah Valley.

The Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce's Utah Valley Transportation Committee hired an Olympia, Wash., consultant to study the feasibility of an intermodal transportation center. Orem resident Monta Rae Jeppson organized the committee last April after becoming disgusted with Provo's Amtrak depot, a plastic shelter at 300 W. 600 South."If David Letterman did a top 10 list of the worst stations in this country, you'd be on there," said Robert G. Bregent, of Rail Associates. Bregent spearheaded an effort to replace a run-down shack greeting rail passengers in the Washington capital with a sparkling new train depot.

Bregent and Jeppson envision a bustling intermodal transportation center on the railroad corridor between the current depot in south Provo and Geneva Steel. A 4,000- to 6,000 square-foot building would house bus, taxi and airport express service, car rental, a park-and-ride, rest area and snack bar. The depot would become the city's mass transit hub and could someday feature commuter rail, Bregent said.

"Basically, it would include those things you'd see in a modern airport," he said. Bregent estimates the project would cost $1.5 million.

Bregent is examining four sites. The station must have direct access to I-15 and be centrally located. Bregent will make his recommendations to the Provo City Council next Tuesday.

Residents would not have to bond or pay increased taxes for the new station, he said. But Jeppson said residents need to rally around the idea to make it work.

"There really are a lot of funding sources, but the community has to go get it. Nobody's going to knock on your door with a check for $1.5 million to build a station," Bregent said.

About 80 percent of the cost could be provided through the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act. Jeppson has begun applying for those funds. The community would have to raise the remainder through private donations or state grants. Utah County could put restaurant tax revenue toward the project as it did $10,000 to pay for Bregent's feasibility study.

Jeppson has driven the railway station plan since October 1992. She organized the transportation committee through the chamber to advance her idea. Jeppson went on a whistle-stop tour of the county last year to enlist government and community support.

Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration won't provide funds to build stations, both agencies say. Residents and local government must drive the project.