A Utah Transit Authority bus heads down Washington Boulevard after picking up passengers in Ogden on Dec. 18, 2017.

OGDEN — With federal funding as certain as it possibly can be and construction set to begin as early as this fall, Ogden City is prepping for the long-awaited bus rapid transit system.

On Wednesday, Utah Transit Authority Board Member Beth Holbrook said work on the project should break ground in late fall or, at the latest, in the early weeks of 2021. Holbrook said the project is still in the final design phase but is estimated to cost about $100 million.

The BRT will provide a 5.3-mile transit connection between downtown Ogden and the campuses of Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital. In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would contribute $65 million toward the project through a federal Small Starts grant. A handful of other UTA projects slated for the 2021 time frame also received money, though the federal government has not actually written the check yet.

“If (the funds) don’t show up, we would have to delay those projects or find other sources of funding,” said Mary DeLoretto, director of capitol projects for UTA. “But the Ogden/Weber State BRT project, we’re pretty confident we’ll get that Small Starts grant. We’re feeling good about how that project is going and anticipate those federal funds will come through.”

Operating on that assumption, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the city is preparing for what will be nearly two years of construction. Holbrook said the project should be up and running by August 2022, aligning with the fall start of school at WSU.

As part of a memorandum of understanding between the city, UTA and other entities involved with the project, Ogden must fund $4 million worth of roadway improvements on 23rd and 25th streets.

The BRT service will originate at the Ogden Utah Transit Authority transit center at 2350 Wall Ave., head east on 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, go south along Washington Boulevard to 25th Street, turn east along 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard, then south to WSU and a planned transit center at the Dee Events Center. McKay-Dee would be the final stop on the line.

According to the UTA project brief, stations will be located at the transit center, The Junction, several other spots downtown, along 25th Street and Harrison Boulevard, Ogden High School, WSU, the Dee Events Center and the hospital.

Caldwell said the city’s engineering division will be doing utility work throughout the route where exclusive BRT lanes and stations are now proposed to be built. The city will also be responsible for the relocation of traffic signals along the route. All of which means that, come fall, traffic could be tied up around Ogden, especially along 23rd Street, 25th Street and Harrison Boulevard. Roadway reconstruction will also take place on the university.

“There’s a lot of of preparation that has to take place on our end,” Caldwell said. “But we’re excited. This is something we’ve been working on for more than a decade and will have a tremendous positive impact on the city as a whole, Weber State and the hospital.”

A fixed transit route through Ogden’s downtown to the university and the hospital has been discussed and studied for some 16 years. According to Ogden City Council documents, an Ogden/WSU transit study commenced in November 2004 — the first iteration of the project called for a streetcar system, an option that was deemed too expensive by the council more than three years ago.

Caldwell said the project will function as a regional economic driver, stimulating new development along its route; but more importantly it will shuttle large numbers of people through the heart of Ogden’s downtown to WSU and the hospital. UTA expects 3,300 riders on the first day of service, with ridership increasing as time goes by.

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