Feds award UTA grants to study expanding TRAX and FrontRunner

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) This file photo shows a TRAX train at the Sandy Civic Center on June 24, 2019.

The Utah Transit Authority won two federal grants Thursday to help it study a proposed $1 billion-plus expansion of TRAX to Utah County through the soon-to-be-redeveloped Utah State Prison site, and a possible expansion of FrontRunner commuter rail from Provo to Payson.

The Federal Transit Administration announced a $275,000 grant for the TRAX study, and $250,000 to help with the FrontRunner evaluation.

“We are proud to support our local partners as they plan for transit-oriented development that better connects residents to jobs, education and services,” said K. Jane Williams, acting FTA administrator, as she announced grants to 23 agencies nationally. “This funding will help improve the quality of life of riders in communities across America.”

The grants are designed to help plan projects that improve access to transit, encourage ridership and spur economic and mixed-use development.

The UTA board last year awarded a contract for up to $800,000 to Parametrix to perform a feasibility study on whether the TRAX extension or alternates are affordable and desirable and where the best route should be.

The study comes despite promises by UTA in recent years that it would focus its resources in the foreseeable future on expanding its neighborhood bus service rather than building more train extensions — which over time created $2 billion in debt for the agency.

However, the state-sponsored Point of the Mountain Commission last year started pressing for a TRAX extension through the prison site, saying redeveloping that area could generate billions in revenue throughout the Wasatch Front “if the right steps are taken,” including building the proposed TRAX extension.