WSU tells Ogden a streetcar system is desired
By MICHAEL McFALL
Standard-Examiner staff email@example.com
OGDEN -- Weber State University officials want to make it clear to the city: They really want a streetcar system.
University President Ann Millner told the Ogden City Council as much when the two groups met Thursday evening for a routine work session on campus. In fact, university officials have already included the desired streetcar as part of their 10-year campus master plan, which is scheduled to be renewed next year.
"This is a really critical project for us," Millner said, urging the city to come to an affordable and fundable means to move the project forward.
The impassioned input comes days before the council is scheduled to revisit the currently halted project on Tuesday.
In June, the Standard-Examiner reported that stakeholders put the proposed $156 million streetcar proposal on hold so that a city council consultant can determine the viability of federal funding for it and its potential economic impacts. There is also debate about what route it would take from the Intermodal Hub on 23rd Street to McKay-Dee Hospital, stopping by WSU along the way.
WSU has about 24,000 students and most of them commute, Millner said. The streetcar would connect them quickly and easily to the downtown area and provide a convenient route for residents who want to travel to campus to participate in cultural or athletic events, she added.
"It will change all the transportation patterns in this community," Millner said.
Norm Tarbox Jr., WSU vice president of administrative services, points to the University of Utah as a prime example of what a permanent mass transit system can do for a campus.
Back in the early 1990s, the University of Utah could not build parking lots fast enough to accommodate its influx of students, he said. Twenty years later, the university is converting its lots now that a third of day trips to the campus are accomplished by mass transit, he said.
"That's the long-term plan. In the short term, we would like to push an express bus," said Caitlin Gochnour, chair of the city council. The council has spoken to the Utah Transit Authority about the possibility, including how it would impact other routes, she said.
Buses will not achieve the same effect that the university is after, Millner said.
Councilman Doug Stephens suggested that the city and the university need to come together to send a message about how important the project is.
"This is very important to us. We need to say it to Mr. Jones in North Ogden," who may not understand why the city would spend money on a project he would never use, Stephens said.
But it's not just the hypothetical Mr. Jones the city would need to convince. Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey has voiced his disapproval of the project due to its high cost.
Gochnour assured the WSU higher-ups at the meeting that the council, at least, is unified in wanting to see the streetcar system materialize.
"There's a point where we have to just get moving," she said.