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Provo city leaders meet with UTA over proposed bus rapid transit route

PROVO — The City Council met with Utah Transit Authority officials at the state Capitol on Monday to find a way to bring a bus rapid transit line to Utah County.

Last week, the Provo City Council voted down UTA's proposed route, which would run along University Avenue, loop around the BYU campus on 900 East, and along University Boulevard toward Utah Valley University in Orem.

The proposed route faced opposition from community members who said it would negatively affect neighborhood dynamics.

But Provo city officials say they still believe bus rapid transit would be beneficial to the city.

"The potential good, not only for our city but for our community and the county, really is what we're all after more than a specific route," Provo Mayor John Curtis said Monday.

Curtis said no firm decisions were made at Monday's meeting with UTA, but the outlook was positive in finding a solution.

The Mountainland Association of Governments — Utah County's metropolitan planning organization — is offering to split the project's $150 million bill with a grant from the Federal Transit Administration. But other projects across the U.S. are competing for such grants, and time is running short for Provo to decide which route would be best.

"We are in steep competition with metropolitan areas around this country," said Greg Hughes, chairman of the UTA board. "A red state like Utah has to outpace the rest to make it work. … News has spread among rival projects across the country that this might have slowed down here in Utah."

Curtis said it remains unclear whether funding sources would support an alternative to the proposed route.

Christian Nielson, who lives in Provo's Tree Streets neighborhood, said the proposed route would bring a negative atmosphere to the community.

"All I want is to preserve the way of life this neighborhood has afforded wonderful families in the past," Nielson said. "Any city development or resolution that would alter the family legacy of this neighborhood is immoral. Let the Tree Streets be what they have always been — a classic family neighborhood."

Sherrie Hall Everett, a sponsor for a referendum to support the bus rapid transit route, said she understands residents' concerns but believes there are ways to address them.

"I believe the fear of potential problems is far higher than the capacity we have as a community to come together and solve them," she said.

Councilwoman Kim Santiago voted against the proposed route, which runs through her district. But Santiago said she remains hopeful that Provo will eventually benefit from bus rapid transit.

"I am really looking for the most robust system for Provo city," she said. "We need a good way to invite people to our city, and when you have a robust transportation system, it's a good way to invite them. We feel really positive moving forward."