Officials celebrate ribbon-cutting on long-sought Ogden Express route
OGDEN — A key transportation element is nearly ready for utilization by the general public, but first came a celebration of the accomplishment.
On Wednesday, local, state and federal dignitaries — along with several dozen onlookers — were on hand at The Junction for the ribbon-cutting on the Ogden Express bus rapid transit route between Union Station and McKay-Dee Hospital via Weber State University.
Wednesday morning’s festivities started with speeches from several interested parties, including Federal Transit Administration Administrator Nuria Fernandez, who said public transportation is great for a community like Ogden.
“Public transportation is a game changer,” she said. “It’s an equalizer. It provides an opportunity for so many — not because they don’t have a choice, but because they find it to be the best choice for mobility.”
She added that BRT systems like the Ogden Express, abbreviated OGX, stand out in the world of public transportation.
“Bus rapid transit is truly a faster way of travel,” she said. “It is light rail on rubber tires, and the ability to put that system in the median as you’re traversing through it and also having the technology, the innovation, the signal priority — that’s going to give that sense of movement that you’re going to be able to get where you want to go safe, fast, frequent and reliably.”
Congressman Blake Moore was also on hand for Wednesday’s festivities, saying it’s very fitting that the region is at the forefront of another facet of transportation.
“We are at a place in the Intermountain West where we’ve been a crucial aspect to the nation,” the 1st Congressional District representative said. “Obviously, there’s the golden spike. We’re a major airline hub. There’s so many things that exist here because we have to think big, and this is the culmination of what’s gone into this, and it’s just the start.”
Ideas like this, Moore added, help keep cities on top of one of the biggest realities municipalities are facing today.
“Utah does so many things too well that we continue to deal with growth, and we’re going to continue to have this problem and (transportation) is the area we’re going to have to continue to deal with it,” he said.
State Sen. Ann Millner said the OGX project is an example of community stewardship.
“That’s what this community does,” she said. “They come together, build partnerships. They look for partners at all levels of government and in the business community and with our nonprofits and with our higher-ed institutions and our hospitals and facilities, and everyone comes together to develop a sense of what needs to happen for this community to continue to grow and thrive and be a place where everyone wants to live, learn, work and play. That’s what makes this community special. It’s people like all of you coming together to celebrate this who have worked over the decades to help make this happen.”
She said this is a time for celebration, but there will be more work to do beyond OGX.
“Take the opportunity to celebrate this, but then think about what else,” Millner said. “What are we working on now? Maybe it might take a decade, it might take two, but it continues to make this the place we all want to live.”
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said transportation has been a key identity for the city of Ogden.
“In March 1869 — 154 years ago — the first tracks came through Ogden, Utah, for the transcontinental railroad,” he said. “The economy here was built entirely around transportation. We have a really, really rich history of transportation driving what happens in Ogden City.”
He said OGX is an example of the city’s forward thinking.
“This is a great way to make sure we’re thinking that next decade or two out,” he said. “We’ve been on the business end of the shovel for a long time and this is a really, really gratifying day to get here.”
WSU presidentBrad Mortensen said the OGX bus line has been a long time coming.
“Over 25 years, this project was first envisioned and recommended as something that was needed,” he said.
He added that having the OGX run through the WSU campus will add a lot to existing services.
“Last fall, we were able to start operating the Wildcat Shuttle part of the OGX line from the Dee Events Center to the central part of campus,” he said. “Unprompted, unsolicited from me, many, many students described that project as a game changer. … Having the full line in effect will only magnify that.”
Jay Fox, Utah Transit Authority executive director, rounded out the morning of speakers.
“We are a model agency for vision, a model agency for innovation and a model agency for collaboration, and that is what OGX represents — a fully electrified bus rapid transit system that exists because of FTA, and Ogden City, and Weber State, and WFRC (Wasatch Front Regional Council), and UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation), and the state of Utah and so many others,” he said. “This collaboration delivered OGX on time and on budget.”
Fox said there was only one way to describe the project’s success: “We knocked this out of the frickin’ park,” he said.
Following the speeches, a bus was used to cut the ribbon on the OGX line with the help of the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce’s Spikers group.
Regular Ogden Express operations begin Aug. 20 with a soft launch set for Aug. 19.