Ogden awarded $250,000 for planning along future BRT corridor

Wednesday , October 12, 2016 - 10:00 AM9 comments

CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Weber County’s largest city received word Tuesday that it was among 16 cities nationwide to receive federal funding earmarked for support of comprehensive planning projects to improve access to public transit.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released the list of 16 grantees Tuesday, Oct. 11, who will receive a combined $14.7 million as part of a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning Pilot Program for communities either developing new or expanded mass transit systems.

In Ogden’s case, the $250,000 grant was awarded to the Utah Transit Authority — in collaboration with Ogden City, the Utah Department of Transportation and other local stakeholders — for the purpose of fully exploring local Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) planning and implementation along the city’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor that eventually will connect downtown to Weber State University and McKay Dee Hospital

According to the FTA, the detailed planning effort will scrutinize strategies to foster equitable transit-oriented development, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements, affordable housing, plus land use policy and zoning changes. 

The awards were announced during the 2016 Rail~Volution Conference in San Francisco.

“The Obama Administration is proud to partner with forward-leaning communities with plans to develop around transit options that connect hardworking families to jobs, education and opportunity,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

Ogden was the only Utah city selected in this round, and Mayor Mike Caldwell said he was very excited about it.

“The project ties the University and downtown together well, and gives both opportunities to grow. The funding is always the devil in the details — you want to make sure you’re sustainable with operations and maintenance,” Caldwell said, adding that “there’s a lot that still needs to be fleshed out with that.”

The project’s timeline is still to be determined, depending on how financing comes together. But Caldwell touted its potential benefit for the city.

“It has the chance to remake Ogden. So we want to make sure we do it right, and get as much information as possible,” Caldwell said.

According to UTA spokesman Remi Barron, Ogden’s BRT project is seen as a regional priority.

“It doubles down on the existing and successful bus route 603,” Barron said by email.

Barron said the FTA planning grant will help Ogden City make sound land use and TOD policy shifts along the BRT corridor that launches from the Intermodal Transit Center at 2350 Wall Avenue, heads east on 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, jogs south to 25th Street, then heads east along 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard. The route then heads south on Harrison Boulevard to Weber State University and a planned intermodal transit hub to be built at the Dee Event Center. McKay Dee Hospital will serve as the southernmost bookend for the corridor.

Barron estimated the project’s cost at $60-70 million for construction, with another $1.6 million per year for operations and maintenance.

“Weber County, UTA, Ogden City, Weber State University and Wasatch Front Regional Council are all discussing ways to fund the project,” Barron said. “It has wide ranging support and would likely bring in at least a 50 percent federal funding grant.”

According to the FTA, its TOD Pilot Program — established under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and later amended by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act — aims to help rejuvenate and build inclusive communities through improved mass transit amenities that connect residents to jobs and key services.

The FTA statement stipulated that in order to qualify for the Pilot Program, the local community must intend to seek project funding through the FTA’s competitive Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program — designed to help finance heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, BRT and other core capacity projects.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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