The Utah Transit Authority has received federal approval to begin limited work on its Mid-Jordan TRAX line, which will stretch 10.6 miles from Murray to South Jordan.
The approval is known as a record of decision, or ROD, and allows UTA to begin purchasing land for the line. It also signals that the agency has done sufficient study of the environmental impact of the rail line, UTA officials announced during a Wednesday meeting of its Board of Trustees.
"Once the ROD is signed, it allows us to move forward with other things," said Ralph Jackson, UTA deputy chief of major program development. Those "other things" include construction, which can begin once UTA obtains a secondary federal approval known as a Full Funding Grand Agreement.
A contractor, Kiewitt/Herzog/Parsons, has already been selected to build both the Mid-Jordan and Draper TRAX lines. The contractor was announced Wednesday and will begin work next Thursday to review designs and plans for the Mid-Jordan line.
Construction could begin in the first half of next year on Mid-Jordan, Jackson said. Work on the Draper line is not likely to begin until late next year, after UTA has finished an environmental study of the line.
The Draper and Mid-Jordan lines are part of a package of five rail lines UTA is planning to build in Salt Lake County, including commuter rail to Provo and TRAX lines to West Valley and the Salt Lake City International Airport.
In late September, UTA announced it signed a letter of intent indicating the federal government will fund 80 percent of the cost to build the Draper and Mid-Jordan lines.
The figure amounts to $500 million or 20 percent of the expected $2.5 billion total cost to build all four of the proposed TRAX lines and commuter rail.
Local sales tax revenues are scheduled to fund the remainder of the construction costs. Voters approved the funds last November, and Salt Lake County officials promised the money to help build two TRAX lines and commuter rail to Provo.
The funding scheme for the rail lines is now under question by legislative leaders, who say county leaders used a faulty process to promise the funding to transit. The process was flawed because of a math error, which pushed transit above roads in a list county leaders used to rank what projects were top priority, according to a legislative audit.
County officials are to take a revote next Thursday on the funding issue, but most have said they don't believe funding will be taken from transit.