Pictured: Provo Orem TRIP Deputy Project Manager Matt Carter shows board members Greg Bell and Sherrie Hall Everett construction progress on the Provo River Bridge.

In advance of their annual board planning workshop starting Friday, UTA board members have been visiting various agency facilities and getting a first-hand look at operations.

Examining Transportation Solutions in Growing Utah County

Last week, board members visited our Orem bus facility to meet with our Utah County employees and learn about how the agency is preparing to operate the new Provo Orem bus rapid transit (BRT) line.

UTA Manager of Service Delivery Reed Snyder took board members Greg Bell and Sherrie Hall Everett on a tour of the 10.5-mile bus rapid transit alignment that will run on two of Provo and Orem’s busiest streets. The group also got a firsthand look at the future BRT bus maintenance facility being constructed adjacent to UTA’s existing bus facility in Orem.

Board members discussed the need for the project as part of a balanced transportation solution to help prepare for Utah County’s rapidly growing population. By 2040, Utah County is expected to surpass 1 million residents. Utah County’s population is growing faster than any other county along the Wasatch Front and is expected to grow twice as fast as Salt Lake County over the next 20 years.

Bell pointed out that intersections between I-15 and Utah Valley University along University Parkway are some of the busiest intersections in the state. “With exclusive lanes and traffic light priority, mass transit is perfectly suited to absorb some of the existing as well as much of the future traffic,” Bell said.

“My favorite part of the tour was hearing Trustee Bell’s astonishment of the growth that is happening and his awareness of what is coming for this area in the coming years,” Everett said.

In addition to learning about how the BRT line will help the region’s growing population get around, the board members learned about the project’s economic benefits.

The project is responsible for creating more than 60 local engineering design jobs and more than 200 local construction jobs. When the BRT line is operational, UTA will add approximately 30 new supervisory, operational and maintenance jobs at its Orem facility. This represents a 21 percent increase in permanent jobs at this location.

During the tour, Snyder pointed out that the project’s contractor has committed to maintaining access to businesses and keeping travel lanes open during construction. “I noticed great care to minimize impacts to businesses and drivers during construction,” Everett said.

“BRT functions almost exactly like light rail, except at a fraction of the cost,” Bell said. “It will be a boon to Utah County residents, even if you don’t ride it, because it will take a lot of traffic off the road.”   

The project is currently 25 percent complete, and the BRT line is expected to be open to the public no later than April 2019.

Meeting with Police and Vanpool Employees in Salt Lake County

Also taking place last week, UTA Board Trustee Babs De Lay visited our police and vanpool departments. While touring UTA’s new police facility, De Lay learned more about the challenges faced by the transit police, and while visiting the agency’s vanpool center, she learned about the role vanpool plays in helping provide first and last mile service.

Also discussed was how our vanpool fleet is maintained through a network of authorized automobile service providers, which allows UTA to keep track of the condition of individual vehicles in the fleet even though vans are located all over the Wasatch Front.

UTA staff were also able to show De Lay its Mobility Center, located near the agency’s Murray North TRAX station. The Mobility Center houses our paratransit assessment facility, which is used to help determine paratransit service eligibility among UTA’s riders. On an average weekday, UTA provides more than 1,000 passengers with door-to-door service on its paratransit services, and each rider must meet certain eligibility requirements.