OGDEN -- After a half-decade of serving commuters in the Top of Utah, Utah Transit Authority officials say FrontRunner North still has room to grow.
FrontRunner recently celebrated its fifth anniversary of service in Weber and Davis counties.
According to UTA, in those five years since the first train left the Ogden Intermodal Hub, more than 8 million individual trips have been taken on FrontRunner North and approximately 178 million miles of auto traffic has been taken off the road.
In data compiled for five years, FrontRunner North averages 7,800 daily riders. In March 2013, the system reached a high-water mark for average daily ridership over a one month period with 13,000.
Since FrontRunner North hit the scene, UTA has expanded its rail operations with the nearly $600 million FrontRunner South line, which connects Salt Lake City to Provo, but officials say those 44 miles of new track are just a precursor of what is to come.
As funds for future projects become available, UTA officials say one of the first priorities will be expanding bus service to and from FrontRunner stations. The agency also eventually wants to expand FrontRunner as far north as Brigham City and as far south as Santaquin.
"Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, and more than 80 percent of Utah's population is located between Brigham City and Payson," said Utah Chief Capital Development Officer Steve Meyer. "And many of the areas along that corridor have limited room for freeway expansion."
A connection to Brigham City has been discussed ever since construction began on FrontRunner in 2005.
UTA estimates from 2011 showed the construction cost for a shared line between Pleasant View and Brigham City was at $72.3 million, while an exclusive line would cost $198.9 million. Annual operation and maintenance expenses would rise from $537,000 for a shared line to more than $1 million.
But UTA Senior Media Specialist Remi Barron said those numbers are no longer currently working data used by UTA, and a new corridor planning study is under way that has been funded by Box Elder and Weber counties to evaluate options for an alignment of a corridor between Ogden and Brigham City.
UTA said they favor an exclusive line for the Brigham City expansion.
"It is very limiting to share track," Meyer said. "You can't run the schedule that you want -- you have to run the schedule that the railroad wants."
UTA currently shares track with Union Pacific between the Ogden and Pleasant View stops.
The Brigham City extension would likely be paid for from money being generated by an existing sales tax that UTA collects in Box Elder and Weber counties.
As UTA looks to expand FrontRunner further to the north and south, don't look for additional stops in-between.
Some have wondered why the train doesn't make stops near large employment centers, like the Freeport Center in Clearfield or Business Depot Ogden.
Meyer said FrontRunner stations are located at 7-mile intervals, which allows for a faster trip with fewer stops.
Meyer said being able to operate at high speeds is essential to provide an efficient solution for commuters who want to get to and from work in a timely manner.