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UTA study to consider longer, more frequent TRAX options

Board members awarded a $400,000 contract to LTK Engineering to study possible improvements to the rail system

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A UTA TRAX train operates in downtown Salt Lake City Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.

Jeffrey_Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority will be eyeing the possibility of extending and increasing offerings on its TRAX line.

The UTA board of trustees took the first steps toward building up the light rail line by approving a 12- to 18-month study that will explore the feasibility of improving the current TRAX fleet, extending existing lines and changing the schedule so trains run every five minutes.

According to Laura Hanson, UTA’s director of planning, the agency is already considering expanding the Red Line straight through 400 South to Salt Lake Central station, creating a Black Line that would take passengers from the airport straight to the University of Utah, and using existing tracks near the ballpark to free up track space.

“Our light rail system just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and we have over 60,000 riders a day,” said Mary DeLoretto, UTA’s acting chief service development officer. “But we think now it’s time to look at it and see if there’s any way we can make operational or service changes to optimize existing function and accommodate future growth in the area.”

Much of the UTA’s recent focus has been directed at expanding the bus system — in August the agency added new routes in Salt Lake and Weber counties and brought more buses to Tooele County.

But the growing popularity of the rail system has prompted UTA to consider widespread upgrades.

LTK Engineering, an international consulting firm specializing in passenger rails, was awarded a $400,000 contract on Wednesday to conduct the Future of Light Rail study. In 2018 LTK oversaw the Future of the FrontRunner study, a similar initiative that recommended improvements to the Wasatch Front’s popular commuter train.

The study is the second of its kind to be approved by UTA this year. In July, the board approved an $800,000 contract with Parametrix, a Washington-based consulting firm, to look into a rail extension near Point of the Mountain that could cost over $1.2 billion.

Hanson assured the board Wednesday that as the Point of the Mountain analysis progresses, results will be incorporated into the Future of Light Rail study to avoid any contradictions.

“Our hope is not to reinvent the wheel and start with whatever information is out there already,” Hanson told the board.