Ogden may pause streetcar project

Jun 7 2011 - 11:25pm

OGDEN -- The city council will present a letter to a group of stakeholders today asking them to pause efforts in developing a $160 million streetcar system so the project can be studied further.

Council members discussed the letter during a work session Tuesday night.

The letter will be presented to representatives from Weber County, Utah Transit Authority, Weber State University, McKay-Dee Hospital, Utah Department of Transportation and Wasatch Front Regional Council at a meeting today.

The meeting at Weber State University is being held to review a final draft of an alternative analysis for a proposed streetcar route between the Intermodal Hub at 23rd Street and Washington Boulevard to an area near Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital.

The council wants the streetcar to run from the Intermodal Hub up 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, along 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard, and on to Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital. The council maintains that route would foster development along the route and best serve residents.

However, the transit alternative analysis spearheaded by UTA indicates the preferred route should go from the Intermodal Hub along 23rd Street, to Washington Boulevard, to 36th Street to Harrison Boulevard and then to Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital.

The city council wants to pause further work on the streetcar proposal so its consultant, GB Arrington, who works for PB PlaceMaking Inc., can determine the viability of federal funding for the project, said Bill Cook, the council's executive director.

Arrington would review technical data associated with the UTA alternative analysis and explore potential economic development impacts and opportunities of a streetcar system, Cook said.

In addition to asking stakeholders to pause work on the streetcar project, the council also plans to request today that UTA establish an express bus route between the Intermodal Hub and Weber State University, Cook said.

Arrington told the city council during the work session that it will be important for him to try to use as much data as possible from the alternative analysis that he estimated has cost about $700,000.

Gerry Carpenter, a UTA spokesman, said in a phone interview Tuesday night that it would be a shame if the alternative analysis isn't used in any future study of the streetcar proposal.

"We've done a lot of work. If the money that's been spent is essentially wasted, there would be some disappointment."

Mayor Matthew Godfrey said while he has no problem with Arrington completing an independent review of the alternative analysis, he believes the streetcar project is too costly to pursue.

Godfrey estimated the city would likely have to pay half of the $160 million price tag for the streetcar, with the federal government providing the rest. He also said the city would have to shell out at least $2 million annually to operate and maintain the system.

Godfrey told the council it only makes sense to pursue the project when the federal government agrees to contribute more money and the cost of streetcar technology becomes less expensive.

"There is no way to pay the local (matching) costs and operational costs," he said.

However, Councilwoman Susie Van Hooser said a streetcar system could spark significant economic development activity along the route.

"If we put rail in the ground, it will demonstrate the city's commitment to it (the project)."

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