OGDEN — Ogden City is ready to buy a piece of property integral to the northward expansion of the FrontRunner commuter rail.
But city and transit officials say the transaction is the first of many hurdles that will need to be cleared to move train service north of Ogden’s downtown.
On Tuesday, Ogden officials discussed a pending agreement between the city, Weber County and the Utah Transit Authority, which would facilitate the purchase of an approximately 5-acre piece of property on west 2nd Street, immediately east of the Union Pacific rail tracks. The UTA board signed off on the agreement in September, but the Ogden City Council has final authority on approving the purchase. Negotiations are currently taking place with Nelson Intermountain Crane, which currently owns the site.
If the council approves the agreement, UTA would reimburse Ogden for the acquisition once the agency’s northern expansion of the rail line begins. The money would ultimately go back to Weber County’s transportation fund. In late 2018, the Weber Area Council of Governments approved $3 million in county funds to be used by Ogden to preserve the land, which is near the site of a proposed FrontRunner station.
Mark Johnson, Ogden’s Chief Administrative Officer, said acquiring the property is one of the first, and most important, steps of the rail line’s future expansion. UTA currently owns exclusive track for FrontRunner up to only about 12th Street in Ogden.
A $32 million project to build the FrontRunner station on Business Depot Ogden grounds near west 2nd Street is listed on the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s Transportation Improvement Program. The project also calls for the installation of a new, dedicated track to the station from the Ogden Intermodal Transit Center. The plan calls for a local funding match of $16 million, which would likely come from a variety of state, county and city sources. The remaining $16 million for the project would be sought from the Federal Transit Administration.
Beyond that, UTA ultimately wants to take the train as far north as Brigham City.
The aforementioned WFRC plan also calls for the continued preservation of corridor between Ogden and Brigham City for future transit service. Though there’s no hard timeline for when it will come, the service would bring back the shuttered Pleasant View station and add additional stations at Business Depot Ogden, in Willard and in Brigham City. The expansion would involve nearly 20 miles of new mainline track.
As such, other properties, including some near Ogden’s northern border, will likely need to be purchased.
“There still might be a small piece once we get north of BDO that they’re going to need to work on,” Anderson said.
Ogden Council member Rich Hyer, who was on the WACOG board when the 2nd Street land preservation discussions were taking place, said while more land is needed, cities in Weber County appear to be supportive of acquiring land needed for the northward route.
“There has been quite a lot of discussion about right-of-way procurement going north, but that’s up to the individual communities to find out how they want to do that,” he said. “Its early in that process, but at least the ones in Weber County are pretty motivated to get it cleared out so they can have it go further north.”
As for Box Elder County, UTA Director of Real Estate Paul Drake recently said work is ongoing to purchase the necessary right-of-way there. A county sales tax plan that was passed there in 2008 directly supports the property acquisitions needed for the expansion and, to date, has yielded more than $7 million to be put toward to effort. UTA is currently in the process of purchasing an approximately 38-acre piece of raw land, located at roughly 550 W. 750 North in Willard, immediately east of Interstate 15, for just under $2.5 million.
Ogden Council Policy Analyst Amy Maybe said a public hearing on the 2nd Street acquisition agreement will likely be held during the Jan. 19 council meeting.