Why even more double-tracking is needed for FrontRunner station near Point of the Mountain
The proposed site would be located close to 14600 South, adding a new stop between the current Draper and Lehi stations within the emerging tech corridor
Utah transportation and transit officials say they want to construct a new commuter rail station that would boost service to the Wasatch Front's growing Point of the Mountain region; however, they said the project would require even more double-track railway than is planned in the coming years for it to work.
Both the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Transit Authority are looking at potentially adding a new FrontRunner station toward the southwest end of the old Utah State Prison site in Draper — now a development project known as The Point — based on $200 million Utah lawmakers set aside this year.
The proposed site would be located close to 14600 South, adding a new stop between the current Draper and Lehi stations within the emerging tech corridor.
But Ben Huot, UDOT's deputy director, told members of the Utah Legislature's Transportation Interim Committee on Monday that there would be additional double-tracking needed between the Draper and Provo stations in order for the train to reach a 15-minute frequency goal that the agencies are striving for by increasing the percentage of dual tracks along the service line.
"When you add an additional station, it changes the timing of the system. So there is associated double-tracking needed to make that station work, to meet the increased frequency goals," he explained during the committee's meeting at Utah Tech University in St. George.
The agency estimates the concept would cost about $400 million with the additional double-tracking, though the legislators were prepared for the steeper cost. Lawmakers wrote that the $200 million allotted to the project this year, covering half of the project cost, includes funding to "double-track necessary sections of the FrontRunner commuter rail system."
Huot added that the Utah agencies aren't pursuing federal funding for the project at the moment, but that could change in the future.
The project would be on top of the estimated $966 million project to increase the percentage of double-tracking from 25% to 50% across the FrontRunner system. Construction for this project is currently slated to begin in 2026 and wrap up in 2029, before the new FrontRunner station would likely go online.
Once the first double-tracking project is complete, UTA officials say they will be able to increase service from 30-minute intervals to 15-minute intervals during peak hours while bumping non-peak hours from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes. It would also allow the agency to provide regular Sunday service for the first time.
However, UTA officials contend that there is a need for all the investments. Janelle Robertson, a project manager for the agency, presented the results of a study led by Kimley-Horn and Deutsche Bahn about the future of FrontRunner. The report projects a 31% population uptick within the FrontRunner service area, resulting in a 76% spike in demand because of the congestion forecast on I-15.
"(It's) kind of creating a natural demand for FrontRunner ridership growth ... (and) kind of showing we need to continue to invest in it for it to continue to be a viable option," she said.
The report lists the Point of the Mountain station in the next phase of FrontRunner's growth after the double-tracking project. All-day 15-minute service and service expansion to Payson are also included in the phase. A service expansion to Brigham City and faster train speeds are projected beyond that.
The update came less than a month after crews began the last phase of the old prison site demolition, making room for The Point. The entire demolition project is expected to be finished in October. Project officials said last year that The Point may end up serving up to 15,000 residents and 40,000 workers in the coming decades.