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OGDEN SEES `LIGHT' TRAFFIC, NOT LIGHT RAIL

Ogden's traffic problems are so minor compared with those plaguing the Salt Lake Valley that buses should meet the city's mass transit needs for another 20 years, according to transportation experts.

And even projecting to the year 2015, said Paul Bay, project director for the Utah Transit Authority's proposed light-rail system, "Weber County looks pretty darned good compared to Salt Lake."The light-rail concept fits in the Salt Lake Valley, where the increase in motor vehicles will outstrip miles of planned additional highway lanes by about 400 percent during the next two decades, Bay said during a public hearing.

Indeed, cars in the Salt Lake Valley will be averaging only 14 miles per hour, compared with 22 mph in Ogden in the year 2015, he said.

"The amount of travel and the relative amount of congestion and delay in the Ogden area do not warrant a major investment in (mass) transit for travel within the Ogden area," Bay said.

While light rail can help solve commuter needs between Draper and Salt Lake City, transportation engineer Doug Hattery of the regional council said it "probably doesn't make sense outside of the Salt Lake Valley."

Hattery said the Ogden-Salt Lake preferred mass transit should either be an express bus system using high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on I-15, or a commuter rail system using existing tracks from Ogden's Union Station to the Union Pacific Railroad station in downtown Salt Lake City.

Light rail is designed to stop every mile or so, as it would in Salt Lake County, Hattery said, while a commuter railroad would pick up passengers every five or 10 miles.

The biggest problem for express bus service is severe traffic congestion on I-15 between North Salt Lake and Farmington. Buses can avoid that congestion if high-occupancy lanes are constructed, but those lanes cost at least $30 million per mile to build, Bay said.

The cost of a commuter railroad is roughly $5 million to $10 million per mile to upgrade existing lines to passenger train standards. But while high-occupancy lanes can be built in segments, the commuter rail system must be completed from Ogden to Salt Lake City before the trains could start carrying riders, he said.