BRIGHAM CITY -- The Utah Transit Authority says it will extend FrontRunner from Pleasant View to Brigham City, but how and when that will happen is still up in the air.
UTA recently briefed local government leaders in Brigham City on the status of the project, noting that, right now, it exists only on UTA's long-range plan as an unfunded extension.
The long-range plan is a wish list of projects the agency would like to complete by 2030, but just because a project is on the plan doesn't mean it will be built by 2030.
UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said the agency is serious about the FrontRunner extension, but the money and ridership demand just isn't there right now.
For the first line of FrontRunner, which runs from Pleasant View to Salt Lake City and came with a $611 million construction price tag, UTA shares the final six miles of track -- from Ogden to Pleasant View -- with the Union Pacific Railroad.
But for the Brigham City extension, UTA is considering an alternate course.
Rather than share the rail with Union Pacific, UTA is considering building its own line between Pleasant View and Brigham City -- a plan that would allow for more trips and better service, but that would more than double the cost of construction.
Based on a UTA study, a shared line would carry 488 riders every day with four round trips. An exclusive line would carry 688 riders every day with eight round trips.
The construction cost for a shared line is estimated 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 whether it's a shared or exclusive track, UTA doesn't have the money for either right now.
The project's construction would be paid for from money being generated by an existing sales tax that UTA collects in Box Elder and Weber counties.
Box Elder would pay for 73 percent of the total cost because 73 percent of the rail would be in that county. Weber County would pick up the remaining 27 percent of the cost.
In 2009, UTA collected $1.3 million in sales tax in Box Elder County, but to build even a shared line by 2030, UTA estimates the tax would need to generate at least $3.8 million annually.
"It's still less than what we need at this point, even for the shared line," Carpenter said.
Those local costs could be lowered, though, if UTA secures federal funding.
But Carpenter said it's unknown if UTA would be able to get federal funds and what percentage of the total cost would be paid for by the those funds.
For the original FrontRunner line, federal funds covered 80 percent of the total cost of construction, while cities along the line accounted for the other 20 percent.
But UTA's current $850 million extension of FrontRunner, from Salt Lake City to Provo, is paid for entirely by local funds.
"Obtaining federal funding is a very competitive process," Carpenter said. "You are competing with projects from all over the country. Ultimately, we need to show that there is a demand for this project and people will ride it."
Brigham City Mayor Dennis Fife said it will likely be necessary to look at other sources of funding and see if the Bear River Association of Governments can help obtain grants that would kick-start the project.
Roger Jones, the executive director of BRAG, said the best option for the project would be to "wait and do it correctly" by allowing UTA to build its own line.
Carpenter said a portion of the sales tax revenue UTA collects in Box Elder County will go toward preserving corridor for the project.
"There may not be funds today to build it, but now is the time to plan for it," he said. "The bottom line is that commuter rail will go to Brigham City, but the ultimate question is when."