$61 million in federal funding en route to improve Utah transit

UTA is poised to upgrade TRAX service ‘significantly’ with the funds, its director said.

By: Alixel Cabrera, Utah News Dispatch 

The federal government is injecting almost $61 million for transit projects in Utah. The Utah Transit Authority is planning on using the funds mostly for maintenance programs.

The money comes from a $9.9 billion federal funding formula distributed across the country as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support different transit agencies.

The Federal Transit Administration uses a formula to determine how much funding states’ departments of transportation, Tribal nations and urbanized areas receive, considering factors such as their population, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation news release. Projects may include transit systems, buses and bus facilities, transit designed for seniors and people with disabilities, planning funds, and improvements to current transit assets, the release said.

UTA has allocated $28.7 million of the federal funds to bus and rail preventive maintenance, ADA Paratransit operations and other capital projects. An additional almost $18 million is also directed to rail preventive maintenance and other capital projects, according to a chart shared by the authority.

The transit authority is poised to upgrade TRAX service “significantly” by procuring new low floor light rail vehicles thanks to the infrastructure bill, Jay Fox, UTA executive director said in a statement.

“Replacing 20 of our current high floor light rail vehicles would not have been possible without the crucial grant funding from the FTA,” Fox said, “which has also had a major impact on many other UTA projects, including the Midvalley Community Connector, paratransit operations and the Depot District Clean Fuels Technology Center.”

About $1 million will go to community partners in the Enhanced Mobility for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program. The authority hasn’t determined yet how it will spend $4 million from the bus and bus facility formula program.

The new funding represents a partial year of support for transit, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in the release. The calculations were made to reflect funding availability to states from Oct 1, 2023 to March 1, 2024, “while the federal government operates under a Continuing Resolution,” the release said.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides significant increases to transit funds across the country, from counties with just one van providing rides to systems operating hundreds of trains, buses, and ferries in the largest cities in America,” FTA Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool said in the release. “Communities depend on this funding to start new projects, fix old infrastructure, and bring more fast, safe, convenient service.”

UTA 2050 plan

UTA also approved its 30-year long-range transit plan, also known as UTA Moves 2050, which would help shape the future of public transit along the Wasatch Front until 2050.

Currently, the document reads, 62% of residents in the Wasatch Front live a half-mile away from weekday transit options. With growth patterns at the edge and outside the UTA service area, the authority expects the percentage of users living a half-mile away to transit to drop to 35%. The long-term goal is to increase that percentage to 70%.

Some of the highlights of the plan, according to the UTA website, include new routes in high growth areas, more frequent service, including on Sundays, a FrontRunner extension south to Payson, a new TRAX line connecting Research Park and the airport, and new late-night service areas.

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