UTA seeks input on closing Pleasant View FrontRunner station

Wednesday , March 07, 2018 - 5:00 AM2 comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect how UTA surveyed FrontRunner users.

PLEASANT VIEW — Northern Utah’s rep to the Utah Transit Authority sees a potential mechanism to generate funds to build a new FrontRunner rail line to Pleasant View.

But it’s dependent on passage of a measure still up for debate in the Utah Legislature, said Toby Mileski, the Weber County representative to the UTA Board of Trustees. And even if the measure passes — he’s hopeful it will — immediate action isn’t likely.

Meantime, UTA officials have two gatherings planned for next week — one in Pleasant View and the other in North Ogden — to gather feedback from the public on plans to indefinitely halt the already limited FrontRunner service to Pleasant View on Aug. 12. UTA officials publicly revealed the plans last month, surprising and upsetting some, and are in the process of trying to figure out how to accommodate northern Weber County FrontRunner and UTA users after service ends.

“How do we meet the needs of existing riders?” said Steve Meyer, UTA’s director of capital projects.

Possible measures to serve UTA customers from Pleasant View, North Ogden and other northern Weber County locales once FrontRunner service to Pleasant View stops include increased bus service and on-demand transport to haul them to and from the Ogden FrontRunner station, which won’t be impacted.

RELATED: Pleasant View FrontRunner station closing in August due to new safety rules

The first of the UTA meetings next week is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, March 12, at the Pleasant View Municipal Building, 520 W Elberta Drive, Pleasant View. The second is set for 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 14, at North Ogden City Council Chambers, 505 E 2600 N, North Ogden.

UTA also sent workers to FrontRunner trains to survey users for their input.

UTA officials announced the planned closure of the Pleasant View FrontRunner station because of the high cost of updating the rail line between Ogden and Pleasant View to comply with new federal safety rules going into effect. Union Pacific Railroad owns that segment of rail, unlike the rest of the system, and UTA eventually plans to build its own rail line from Ogden to Pleasant View so it can resume FrontRunner service.

Mileski said on Monday that he broached the notion of tapping funding overseen by the Weber Area Council of Governments to help develop the proposed Ogden-Pleasant View rail segment. WACOG is made up of elected officials from across Weber County and southern Box Elder County and they seemed receptive to the idea, Mileski said.

Still, tapping money to buy right of way to build the line, thus eliminating dependence on Union Pacific’s line, will require passage of a pending measure enabling such action by Utah lawmakers. Mileski seemed optimistic the legislation would pass, and if it does, he’ll revisit WACOG officials with a formal proposal to tap funding in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

As is, UTA has only minimal access to the Union Pacific segment, limiting service to Pleasant View. For instance, southbound FrontRunner trains leave 28 times a day from Ogden, typically, compared to only three times a day from Pleasant View.

“Union Pacific’s business is moving rail cars. Every 30 minutes, they can’t have a UTA train running to Pleasant View on the single track,” Mileski said, adding that the rail firm has been cooperative on the matter. “They need that to help commerce.”

Mileski said the cost to acquire the right of way to build the new rail segment, parallel to the existing Union Pacific line going from Ogden to Pleasant View, would be $4.5 million to $10 million.

His initial priority, Mileski said, is extension of rail line to Business Depot Ogden in northern Ogden and creation of a new FrontRunner station there. The heavy use he thinks that new stop would create would help generate funds to extend the line farther north to Pleasant View.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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